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Entire City of Kiruna, Sweden to Relocate

By Barbro Plogander
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 14, 2012 Last Updated: November 19, 2012
Related articles: World » Europe
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Aerial image of Kiruna, Sweden. To expand the largest iron ore mine in the world, Swedish mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) will pay to move the entire city of Kiruna. (Photo Courtesy of Kiruna Kommun)

Aerial image of Kiruna, Sweden. To expand the largest iron ore mine in the world, Swedish mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) will pay to move the entire city of Kiruna. (Photo Courtesy of Kiruna Kommun)

GOTHENBURG, Sweden—The city of Kiruna at the northern tip of Sweden, home to 23,000 residents, sits atop the world’s largest iron ore mine. With an increase in worldwide demand for the resource, state-owned mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) is planning to move the entire city to better access the ore.

Ulrika Isaksson, information officer for the municipality of Kiruna, says that the city will move in stages over a long period of time. The first stage will involve moving the city center about 1.5 km (0.9 miles) northeast.

“We’re not quite sure about how it will happen, and this is because LKAB has to negotiate separately with everyone who owns a building in the area,” she said.

Next year, LKAB will open up a new main level at the Kiruna mine, at a depth of 1,492 yards (1,365 meters), and this is what has forced the city to move, according to Anders Lindberg, information officer at LKAB.

“We have looked at how much of the city will be affected when we go down to that level. It will take us between 20 and 25 years, and 3,000 houses will be affected during that period,” Lindberg said.

According to Swedish law, LKAB is economically responsible for the move. Lindberg lives in Kiruna himself, and used his own situation as an example of what the process of buying out the house owners can look like.

The difficult part is walking into people’s homes and telling them that they have to move.

—Anders Lindberg, Information Officer, LKAB

“LKAB will buy my house within ten years from now,” he said. “After that, I will still stay there as a tenant. LKAB is seeking a mining permit in my area, which means they must buy all of the houses in that area. When they eventually start mining, it will probably take 10–15 years for the ground to be affected to such a degree that I have to move.”

The moving of 3,000 households takes some serious planning. Much of the infrastructure is already in place, with new roads, a new railroad, and utilities. An area of 140 households is currently being emptied because of its proximity to the cracks that have already formed in the mountain from the mining, but so far, no houses have been demolished or moved.

LKAB has put aside 6 billion SEK (about $900 million) thus far for the restructuring of the entire community. Anders Lindberg says that LKAB’s profits are so large that the move is well within its technical and financial capacity.

The difficult part is walking into people’s homes and telling them that they have to move.

“Sure, we give you another nice place to live, but you will never be able to walk around in the area where you grew up, or where you raised your children,” he said.

Isaksson said that an architect competition is underway to decide what the new city center will look like.

“The municipality and LKAB have decided together which buildings of cultural value need to be moved,” she said. “There’s 19 of them, and they will all have a role in the new city.”

Among the buildings to be moved is the beloved red wooden church from 1912, and the house of Hjalmar Lundbohm (1855–1926), the first managing director of LKAB. He is more or less considered the founder of Kiruna, since it was his idea to create this city in the middle of nowhere. He understood that it would be difficult, even with the best of wages, to motivate miners to move to this subarctic wasteland without creating an attractive community for them and their families.

This challenge of creating a place where people will want to live is exactly what faces LKAB and the municipality again today as they plan their big move.

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