Large-scale Wind Farm in Sami reindeer land, Sweden

More than 1,000 turbines (4,000 MW) are being constructed in Sami herding lands. The UN and ONGs press the Swedish government and private financial institutions to respect Sami land and human rights.

In May 2008 the Swedish Company Svevind applied for a permit to build and operate the Markbygden Wind Farm. The project consist of more than 1,000 wind turbines, and an extensive road infrastructure to be deployed in the Arctic region of Piteå. This major industrial project is expected to achieve an installed capacity over 4,000 MW with total production of around 8-12 TWh per year, capable to supply electricity for about 400,000 households in Sweden. According to Svevind, the project is located in a region with “very good wind conditions” and “relatively small degree of conflicting interests” since the area is “sparsely populated”. However, the project covers a total of 450 Km2 of Sami reindeer herding areas. The Sami people are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. The Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding and currently about 10% of the Sami are connected to this activity, providing them with meat, fur, and transportation. 2,800 Sami people are actively involved in herding on a full-time basis. For traditional, environmental, cultural, and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved only for Sami people in certain regions of the Nordic countries. Sami herders in Pitea say that the deployment of the Markbygden Wind Farm through the reindeer herding lands will limit their movements and endanger their animals. If the Sami lose the reindeer, they loose their language, culture, traditions, and ability to move in nature. Ingrid Inger, president of the Sámi Parliament, explains that reindeer herders need to move their herds between seasonal grazing lands – often across long distances - during the year. But increasing demands on the land from other economic interests is making that more and more difficult, and is leading to the closure of traditional Sámi businesses. According to Patrick Lantto, an historian at the Centre for Sámi Research in Umeå, the Sami are protected by a law which gives them the right to grazing lands across vast stretched of the north of Sweden.  However, he says that this does not add up too much in practice as it is almost impossible for herders to prove they have been using the land, which is 95% owned by two forestry companies. In Lantto’s perspective, despite some recent court rulings in Samis favour, “there’s a strong sentiment that reindeer husbandry could prevent development in the north”. In fact, the Swedish government decided to accept the admissibility of the project in March 2010 placing wind power as a high priority for the national interest. After the government’s decision, the Saami Council (the NGO that represents the Sami people in all four countries in which they live) published a press release criticising the German bank KfW IPEX for their funding of this giant project in Sami herding areas, in contravention of the OECD Convention on Multilateral Enterprises. The Sweden government has also received strong international criticism by the UN Racial Discrimination Committee and the Human Rights Committee. The UN Committee released its Concluding Observations on Sweden in which it calls on Sweden to take several concrete actions, to end the human rights violations against Sami people. Sweden failed to ratify the 169 ILO Convention. Simultaneously, in Norway, some Lappish politicians (for example - Aili Keskitalo) suggest giving the Sami Parliament a special veto right on planned mining projects. The wind power company has argued they have consulted the Sámi and that they are willing to pay appropriate compensation. However, Samis state they were never properly consulted before the building got underway. Ingrid Inger, president of the Sámi Parliament, says this is just the latest chapter in a longstanding struggle between Sámi reindeer herders and industrial interests. “We’re not against wind power - but we are against big wind farms like Markbydgen because they affect the reindeer business – the local Sámi herders will lose about a quarter of their winter grazing land. That’s really reprehensible from our point of view,” she said. According to the company’s information, by April 2016 the pilot, first and second phases of the project have already been approved and under construction. The third and last phase of Markbygden is still being investigated.
Basic Data
NameLarge-scale Wind Farm in Sami reindeer land, Sweden
ProvinceNorrbotten, Piteå
SiteKikkejaure village
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Windmills
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Number of wind turbines: 1101 wind turbines.
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)45,000
Level of Investment (in USD)7,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date01/03/2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesSvevind from Sweden - Developer
Enercon from Germany
Relevant government actorsSwedish ministry of enterprise and energy
International and Financial InstitutionsKfW Bankengruppe (KfW ) from Germany - Investor
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSami council
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Shareholder/financial activism.
Lack of proper consultation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The construction of the project is ongoing while consultation processes remain unsatisfying for Sami people.
Sources and Materials

Anett Sasvari (2016), Green grabbing – modes of appropriation and knowledge production in the conflict between Sami herders and the wind power industry, Paper Presented at the ENTITLE Conference, Undisciplined Environments, Stockholm, March 2016.


Samis web page
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Markbygden Project Webpage
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Sami Council Web Page
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The International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, Sami Council Criticize German Bank Funding of Wind Power on Reindeer Pastures, April 19, 2010, Consulted April 15 2016
[click to view]

Tom Sullivan, Radio Sweden – News in English, Sámi opposition to giant wind farms, Published torsdag 25 november 2010 kl 08.35,
[click to view]

Media Links

The Last Generation? – Sami Reindeer Herders in Swedish Lapland, Documentary, Filmed 2012 – 2013,,
[click to view]

Other Documents

Sami reindeer herder - National Geographic, Photograph by Erika Larsen
[click to view]

Reindeer in the road near the wind farm. Photo: Tom Sullivan / SR International
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorSofia Avila-Calero
Last update20/04/2016