Aim-listed Beowulf is still awaiting the award of an exploitation concession from the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation and Constitutional Committee for the Kallak North area, since its initial application in 2013.
The company says is has learnt that the Ministry has advised the committee to reach out to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to assess whether the company’s proposed activities toward the Kallak Iron Ore project have an impact on the world heritage of Laponia.
World heritage sites may lose their designation if the Unesco World Heritage Committee determines the designated site is not properly managed or protected.
According to Beowulf, only two sites have ever lost their Unesco World Heritage status, one of which was the Oryx Sanctuary, in Oman, where government reduced its size by 90% for oil development, which resulted in the decimation of the Oryx population through habitat loss and poaching.
The other is the Dresden Elbe Valley World Heritage site, which involved a modern transport bridge being built through the middle of the picturesque city in Germany.
Beowulf CEO Kurt Budge says the development of the Kallak project does not even begin to compare to the circumstances in these cases.
Moreover, the committee would first need to place a site it is concerned about on its World Heritage in Danger list and attempt to negotiate with the local authorities to remedy the situation and, if remediation fails, the committee then revokes its designation.
Beowulf points out that Laponia is not one of the 53 entries on the World Heritage in Danger list.
The company further motivates that the total area of Laponia is about 9 400 km2 and, in 2016, it was the world’s largest unmodified nature area to still be cultured by native people, in this case being the Sami reindeer herders.
Kallak is about 34 km outside of Laponia, at its closest point, and 0.15% the size of Laponia.
Beowulf highlights that Boliden’s Aitik mine, in Sweden, was established in 1966, some 30 years before Laponia was granted World Heritage status and its operations are closer to Laponia than Kallak would be.
The company has provided the Ministry with its heritage impact assessment and covering letter sent to Bergsstaten – the mining inspectorate – in April 2017.
Typically this kind of assessment is not required with an application for an exploitation concession, but Beowulf voluntarily produced one.
The original application for the concession was submitted in April 2013, while the mining inspectorate in 2015 recommended to the Swedish government that the concession be awarded.
In March 2017, it had already been concluded by government environmental and heritage protection agencies Naturvårdsverket and Riksantikvarieämbetet that a mining operation at Kallak would have no direct impact on Laponia.
The company believes mining and reindeer herding can cooperate and prosper side-by-side and says there is no evidence to suggest that they cannot. The company also believes that transport solutions will be optimised and controlled during environmental permitting, such that there is no effect on Laponia.
It is Beowulf’s ambition to seek environmentally sensitive solutions with respect to all aspects of the Kallak project and to develop the project in partnership with the community, it says.
“We are pleased that the application appears to be progressing by the Swedish government and we believe that by consulting Unesco, the Ministry is satisfying all partners in government.
"While the news came as a surprise to us, and clearly investors have reacted negatively, we do not believe this matter is a material cause for concern,” says Budge.