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Rönnbäcken Nickel Mine, Västerbotten, Sweden

In November 2013, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on the Swedish government to stop activities at the proposed nickel mine. The Sámi herd their reindeer in the area.


In the valley Björkvattsdalen, close to the village Tärnaby in Västerbotten, Sweden, there is an ongoing conflict between two national interests ('riksintresse' in Swedish). The national interest conflict is between reindeer herding, a traditional practice belonging to the indigenous Sami people, and the opening of a nickel mine by the company Nickel Mountain AB. This is the first time in Swedish history that two national interests are put against one another and in May 2012, the Swedish Supreme Court came to the conclusion that in this case they are incompatible (1, 2).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Rönnbäcken Nickel Mine, Västerbotten, Sweden
State or province:Västerbotten
Location of conflict:Tärnaby
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Nickel, Cobalt, Magnetite
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The mine would consist of three open pits, an industrial area with ore treatment facilities such as crushing plants, ore storage and a processing plant. There would also be an area dedicated to stockpiling waste rock and a pond for mine tailings (1). The life span of the mine is thought to be over a time period of 27 years (including after-treatment of the ground) and the company estimate to extract 30 million tonnes of ore every year which would yield 26,000 tonnes nickel and 760 tonnes of cobalt. Besides nickel and cobalt there might be an annual production of 1,5 million tonnes of magnetite concentrate as a byproduct. The mine is expected to create 500 new jobs and production is thought to begin in earliest in 2016 (2).

Project area:4.8
Level of Investment for the conflictive project15,400,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:150
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Nickel Mountain AB from Sweden
IGE Resources AB from Sweden
Relevant government actors:Bergsstaten , Supreme Court, Land and Environment Court
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Jordens Vänner, Umeå (Friends of the Earth, Umeå),änner-Umeå/166826526664278?fref=ts, Studiefrämjandet,, Nätverket Stoppa Gruvan i Rönnbäck, (The Network Stop the Mine in Rönnbäck),, Landspartiet Svenska Samer,, Min Geaidnu,, Riksorganisationen Landsförbundet Svenska Samer (LSS), Vadtejen Saemiej Sijte (VSS), Älvräddarna,, Urbergsgruppen,, Vaapsten sijte,, Fältbiologerna,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Proposal and development of alternatives:The proposal is that there should be no mine and that the Sami people should keep their land.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is too early at the moment to say how the conflict will end.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Swedish Mineral Law (Minerallagen, 1991:45),
[click to view]

Swedish Environmental Law (Miljöbalken, 1998:808),
[click to view]

ILO Convention 169, Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention,
[click to view]

(3) Fördömer dagens regeringsbeslut, Sveriges Radio,
[click to view]

(5) Regeringens dilemma: Gruvor eller renskötsel, Sveriges Television,
[click to view]

(2) Ja till ny svensk nickelgruva, Ny Teknik,
[click to view]

(6) I valet mellan miljön och miljarderna, Dagens Arena,
[click to view]

(1) Regeringen ger klartecken för gruva i Tärna - nickel viktigare än renskötsel, Sveriges Radio,
[click to view]

(4) Fortsatta protester mot Tärnagruva, Sveriges Radio,
[click to view]

(7) Slaget om Storuman, Fokus,
[click to view]

Other comments:The total investment corresponds to 15,4 million USD (100 million SEK) at this point.
Meta information
Contributor:Linda Dubec
Last update20/02/2020
Conflict ID:411
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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