[Sweden Iron-Ore Mining] How to Move a Town (Bloomberg News – September 5, 2017)


The citizens of Kiruna, Sweden, always knew they’d have to move to accommodate the local iron-ore mine. They just didn’t expect it to happen so soon, or so all at once.

Appropriately, it was the dog musher who broke trail. Sune Stralberg, 66, is a national champion musher, a maker of dogsleds, and owner of Bjorkis Hundprodukter, a one-stop shop for organic kibble, spare sled parts, and dog leads and harnesses.

All of this makes him a local celebrity in his hometown of Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost city. He has the white beard and jovial affect of a skinny Swedish Santa and speaks in lovely, lilting sentences, even when he’s recounting painful memories, such as one from three years ago, when he was forced to move his shop out of its longtime home and into a strip mall 2 miles down the road.

He had little choice—the ground beneath the old shop was on the verge of collapse, like much of the rest of the town. “I already knew that I would move because of the iron,” Stralberg says with a shrug. “Everyone knew.”

Kiruna sits on top of Kirunavaara, the world’s largest underground iron-ore mine and the source of a rare, high-quality magnetite processed into blueberry-size pellets and used in BMWs and iPhones. The mine is the reason Kiruna exists, employing 12 percent of its 18,000 residents, including, at various times, Stralberg’s grandfather, father, and six uncles. Stralberg himself worked in the mine’s machine shop for 16 years before quitting, in 1985, to turn his dogsled-making hobby into a business.

Kiruna’s magnetite seam is “shaped like a piece of toast,” says Fredrik Bjorkenwall, spokesman for LKAB, a state-owned mining company founded in 1890 to harvest the rich iron deposits of Swedish Lapland. At nearly 2,000 feet wide, it’s the largest known iron-ore body in the world, descending at least 6,500 feet on a slant that begins outside the town and angles underneath.

For the rest of this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-09-05/the-audacious-complicated-plan-to-move-a-swedish-mining-town