JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The UK-based mineral exploration and development company seeking to build a magnetite iron-ore mine on the ancestral lands of the indigenous Sami people in northern Sweden has been dealt a blow, after the County Administrative Board (CAB) for Norrbotten recommended against an exploitation licence for the Kallak North project.
In a statement on Thursday, Beowulf Mining outlines the CAB arguments supporting its position. The CAB reportedly feels that the estimated 14-year production life of Kallak, as included in the original application, is too short to justify government investment in infrastructure, the mine does not support a socioeconomic case and it is not deemed a reasonable use of natural resources.
Thus, given the 14-year production life, the CAB believes reindeer herding will be the best use of land.
The CAB also states that the risks are unclear of the impact that a mine will have on the World Heritage status of Laponia.
Beowulf, however, maintains that mining and reindeer herding could prosper side by side and argues that the mine should have no material impact on reindeer herding in Laponia.
Previously, the company stated that there were no examples in Sweden of any reindeer herding community being closed by any form of industrial activity, not just mining. Yet, there were many examples of companies reaching agreements with reindeer herding communities, as projects progress towards eventual operation, which benefit all parties concerned.
Beowulf also pointed out that Kallak's area of 13.6 km2 compares to Jåhkågaska tjellde's 2 640 km2 of grazing land and that reindeer herding in Sweden covers 220 000 km2, representing almost half of the country.
CEO Kurt Budge, who slammed CAB’s decision as flawed and biased, said that Sametinget – the Sami Parliament of Norway – had only put national interest for reindeer herding on top of Kallak in February last year. Before that, there were no conflicting interests at the site.
“The CAB acknowledged this fact in its July 2015 statement, when it supported both the economic case for Kallak, and the Company's application. Yet, the national interest for reindeer herding is now one of the CAB's key arguments, which makes the whole application process appear inconsistent and arbitrary. The CAB has ignored the years before Sametinget's move, during which the company made its application, engaged with the CAB, and continued to invest in Kallak,” he said in a media statement.
Budge continued that the CAB’s actions had damaged the attractiveness of doing business in Norrbotten and Sweden.
"Over the last three years, we have forged strong working relationships in Jokkmokk, with the City of Jokkmokk, landowners, and entrepreneurs. Perpetual waiting, for different authorities at different times to decide on what happens next with our application, has impeded our ability to progress matters with reindeer herding communities.
"In September, Mr Damberg, the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, was quoted in the Swedish media as saying that Swedish law is enough for testing our application, and that the permitting process should be ‘by the book’. If Mr Damberg is true to his word, and given the Mining Inspectorate's comments in recent days, then we should see the concession awarded. No authority has highlighted specific deficiencies in our application that warrant any other outcome," Budge said.
The Swedish government has requested comments from interested parties on the CAB statement, dated November 30.