Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Kiruna Day 3

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on June 27, 2014.

by Kate Tyndell and Jinhui Wang

June 25 – LKAB’s Kiruna Mine, Interview with Göran Cars, and Hjalmar Lundbohm Museum



This morning we woke up bright and early for a tour of LKAB’s Kiruna Mine. The mine is located in Kirunavaara, which means “Ptarmigan Mountain” in Sami. This mine is the largest underground iron mine in the world, and relies on an ore body 4 kilometers wide and 80 meters thick. No one knows how deep the ore body goes, but it extends far under the town of Kiruna – causing problems for the residents and for LKAB.

LKAB touts itself as a “green” mining company. During our brief tour of their underground visitor center, the tour guide and video supplements emphasized the sustainability of their mining practices. From their front-end loaders powered by 1000 watts of hydroelectric power, to their 15,000 horsepower trains that generate their own electricity as they charge down Sweden’s mountains to the sea, LKAB’s practices seem to be focused on green energy. A closer look, however, reveals that cost-effectiveness and productivity are the true reasons behind their greenness. The trains cost next to nothing to operate, and if the front-end loaders didn’t run on electricity, diesel fumes would make the work environment unhealthy.

Whatever their motives, the mine tour was fascinating and fun. We learned about their unique mine,
their plans to move Kiruna, and the sheer amount of planning involved with efficiently moving 2% of the world’s annual iron ore production. At the end of the tour, we were given a sample of the concentrated magnetite pellets that make the mine – and the town of Kiruna – possible. Some of us stocked up on pellets, hoping to score on the worldwide iron market. But when we learned that the pellets were worth only 1 SEK per kilo, we were left with nothing but dashed hopes and some heavy souvenirs.

After the mine, we ate lunch, explored, and went to city hall to learn about Kiruna’s planned move.

“Architecture isn’t primarily about buildings. It concerns people and their needs. And from their wishes and dreams, architecture grows.” A presentation about moving kiruna city was given by the project manager, Göran Cars, who is a professor in Urban Planning at KTH and works together with a development group from the Kiruna Municipality. According to his presentation, the present city center has to be moved due to the mining activity. When first start digging the mine it was on the surface and they started digging underground in 1960s. The ore body is sliding 60 degrees angle under the city so they have to move the city and some of the buildings to someplace where is safe. If the mine is closed down, 2/3 of the population in Kiruna will be directly or indirectly affected. Kiruna is about 20000 km2 and has 23000 inhabitants. The moving project will cost about 25 billion SEK and it is carried out by LKAB. The taxpayers in Kiruna should not be affected.

Because the tourism industry is now booming in Kiruna, the new city needs to be more attractive. The new city center will become the symbol of Kiruna and has the most beautiful buildings in Sweden according to Cars. The construction was started last September. According to Cars, one of the reasons that the moving plan is successful is because the political parties in Kiruna agree on it.

There are still many issues at stake: stakeholders with conflicting interesting, mutual interdependence between stakeholders (politicians, residents, business, real estate owners, LKAB, County administration Board, the Swedish Transport Administration, Investors, Developers). The municipality is still working on making agreement between the stakeholders. Then what are residents’ expectations of future Kiruna? According to the survey, residents want to have a shopping center where can shop both sides of the street; a city square where has meeting places and hotels; a modern theater which can be used for holding conference and showing movies. The project is now under rush and the city hall will be the first building to be affected.

The day wrapped up with a visit at Hjalmar Lundbohm’s former home, which is now a museum. Inside, we learned a lot about the history of Kiruna, which began as a wild, ragged mining town. Hjalmar Lundbohm, LKAB’s first manager, turned the town into a model community by supporting schools, churches, and the arts. In addition, Lundbohm banned hard liquor but this didn’t stop him from enjoying cognac and cigars in his lounge!

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