Lars Jon Allas, whose family has herded for generations, says mine dust kills the lichen reindeer eat in winter
Lars Jon Allas, whose family has herded reindeer for generations, says mine dust kills the lichen reindeer eat in winter.
The town of Kiruna in far north Sweden is home to the largest underground iron mine in the world. Piles of mined earth dwarf the town and smoke churning from the processing plant at the mine’s entrance creates the impression of an active volcano.
Lars Jon Allas and his reindeer herd spend their winters in the pastures just outside Kiruna. Allas, whose family has herded reindeer for countless generations, says mine dust can carry kilometres and kills the lichen reindeer eat during winter.
Allas is apprehensive about the mining boom taking place in Sweden: “We have mining exploration everywhere, it’s frightening.” Now an Australian company is planning a mining complex just south of Kiruna and Allas’s Sami community is determined to stop it.
Hannans Reward Ltd, a Perth-based company, is planning a collection of open-pit mines just a few kilometres from Kiruna, mining iron, copper and gold. The project is in the advanced exploratory stages, the company hoping environmental impact assessments and final resource testing will be completed in 2014. If so it will apply for exploitation concessions and environmental permits that will allow it to begin mining.
The proposed mine sites stretch kilometres across the forested landscape. Mattias Åhrén, a law professor from Tromsø University and member of the Sami council, says the Hannans’ mines will make reindeer herding in the area impossible. “The site is so huge it cuts the Sami communities in half. It’s directly on the reindeer migration path.”
Åhrén says the mines would destroy autumn and spring pastures and reindeer would not be able to pass. He says it is particularly damaging because the mine sites are in the area used by reindeer cows to give birth.
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