Published 2019-03-12

This post is also available in Swedish

Mines that arouse emotions

Mines evoke strong feelings, both for and against. Researchers associated with The Seed Box, a Mistra programme, have issued a new book. In it, they analyse the transformation of Swedish mining policy, and the many conflicts to which that policy has given rise.

In 1991, Swedish mining and minerals policy changed. Financial subsidies and regulatory adjustments made it easier for private holders of exploitation concessions to step forward and open new mines while the state withdrew.

The purpose was to make Sweden a prominent mining and quarrying nation once more, and it succeeded.

The transformation of mining and minerals policy has involved people nationwide and across institutional boundaries, from grassroots action groups and newly formed protest networks to central government agencies and the Riksdag.

‘Attitudes range from concern about massive impacts on the local environment to hostility to foreign investments in Swedish mineral deposits,’ says Simon Haikola, Research Fellow at Linköping University.

Jointly with Jonas Anshelm and Björn Wallsten, he has written the book Svensk gruvpolitik i omvandling: Aktörer, kontroverser, möjliga världar (‘Swedish Mining and Minerals Policy in Transformation: Actors, Controversies, Possible Worlds’). The project was funded by The Seed Box, a Mistra programme, in collaboration with the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Research Council Formas.

One topic described in the book is how responsibility for mining and minerals policy issues has been shifted from the state to local government authorities, civil society and the mining and quarrying companies themselves. This has led to massive resistance, at many different levels in society. There have been extensive protests, both national and local, against extraction projects in Jokkmokk, Tärnaby and Kiruna, Norra Kärr in Jönköping municipality and Ojnareskogen in Gotland.

One chapter in the book describes how efforts to prevent limestone quarrying in northern Gotland are uniting highly variable stakeholders in a unique environmental-policy dispute. In this conflict, which is largely taking place in and among Swedish law courts, the national interests of nature conservation and mineral extraction are opposed, in a way that shakes up the entire established political system.

‘The widespread resistance, found among the grassroots and government agency officials alike, along with the state’s withdrawal, characterises Swedish mining policy since 2000. Many people would like to see the central government assuming responsibility for the environment, regional development and the indigenous population’s rights,’ Haikola says.

Book: Svensk gruvpolitik i omvandling: Aktörer, kontroverser, möjliga världar (‘Swedish Mining Policy in Transformation: Actors, Controversies, Possible Worlds’), Jonas Anshelm, Simon Haikola and Björn Wallsten (2018).

Link: Mistra programme The Seed Box

Text: Per Westergård