Kiruna Sweden
CLUI Visits Mine in Northern Sweden

Occasionally the CLUI is invited to conduct some research or provide some programming or consultation outside the USA. Though beyond the realm of our typical subject matter – the USA – these opportunities help us maintain an awareness of the universality of conditions and phenomena, and provide opportunities for discussion in the international arena. Trends, notions, and perspectives gleaned from international sojourns provide a broadened context for our domestic projects. It helps to think globally, while acting provincially.

THIS MARCH, THE CLUI VISITED Kiruna, Sweden, a mining town located 145 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Kiruna is the northernmost city in Sweden. The town is dominated by Kiirunavaara, a mountain that contains one of the most valuable iron ore bodies in the world. The planned expansion of the mine and the accompanying subsidence of the ground means that most of the town of Kiruna must move over the next few decades. In the short term, several buildings, including Kiruna’s city hall, must be either relocated or demolished.

With this move in mind, professors Ingo Vetter and Florian Zeyfang of Umeå University brought a group art students to take part in a series of public forums to conceptualize the future of Kiruna. CLUI chief anomalist Erik Knutzen and artist Åsa Sonjasdotter came along to help frame the discussion.

302 Gaining new perspectives from Kiruna, in northern Sweden, from the overview above town...Vetter and Zeyfang oriented students and visiting guests with a series of tours. We began with a trip deep into the iron mine itself, which is operated by state owned LKAB. The company’s own tour bus took visitors to a museum, theater and cafe located one kilometer underground in an unused mine shaft. Utilizing a network of over 400 kilometers of underground roads, LKAB extracts high quality iron ore in the form of magnetite, which it processes on site into pellets for use in the production of steel around the world. After screening a wide-screen video production detailing the hundred year history of the mine, our group viewed exhibits, mining equipment and enjoyed cookies and tea in an underground cafe which featured a view of an active mine elevator used to lift heavy iron ore to the surface.

The next day Vetter and Zeyfang organized a visit with Sami reindeer herder Nils Anders Kuhmunen, and enjoyed a lunch of bread and reindeer meat in his circular wooden hut. The Sami are an indigenous people who occupy a swath of the arctic across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. There are issues with reindeer herding patterns and plans for where the town of Kiruna will move.

Both at the public forum and at a class session for the art students, Knutzen showed images from the CLUI’s archives of American towns displaced by mining and the construction of dams, demonstrating some of the precedents for the future they face.

303 . . . to the underview: approaching the mine in the company bus. CLUI photo