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Relocation of Kiruna town due to iron ore mine, Sweden


The world’s largest underground iron ore mine is located in Kiruna, Sweden. The Swedish iron ore mining company LKAB (abbreviation of Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB) was established in 1890, which makes it one of Sweden’s oldest industrial companies. The mine has been in operation for over a hundred years and has been incredibly important for the Swedish economy [1].

The ore is being extracted all year round from the underground mines in Kiruna and Malmberget and at the surface mines of Gruvberget and Leveäniemi in the town Svappavaara. Every time the ore is removed it causes a collapse of rock underground, which automatically fills the cavity and creates clogging.The more ore that is extracted, the more the ground above sinks [1].   In 2004 the mining company LKAB publically announced that the mine was caving in, destabilizing the ground that the town is built upon. Since then, there has been an ongoing project funded by LKAB and the Swedish government to relocate the town centre roughly 3 km east. The completion of the relocation of Kiruna was officially set to take place within 2019, but has recently been postponed until 2022 [2] [3].

Most of the discourse and media coverage of the moving of Kiruna presents the situation as uncontroversial, emphasising the technical and architecturally interesting perspectives and the co-dependence of the mine and the city of Kiruna. Some criticism has emerged from researchers and journalists, but there has been little organised opposition. Residents have however reported they are unhappy with the new location of the city and the prospect of relocating is a cause for sadness and the stresses of uncertainty.  The new site has been criticised for being colder, more windy, lacking a view of the mountains and unfavourably located in an industrial area sometimes referred to as the ‘valley of death’ [5].

The choice of the new site was also regarded by some as undemocratic and unclear, with no open discussion on which location would be good for everyone. Concerns were also raised as residents expected the relocation would be key-to-key, however, the price offered by LKAB for their accommodation was much smaller than what the price will be in new Kiruna hence leaving Kiruna altogether is a real possibility for some  [5].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Relocation of Kiruna town due to iron ore mine, Sweden
State or province:Norrbotten County
Location of conflict:Kiruna
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
Land acquisition conflicts
Urban development conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Iron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Four thousand households, two major highways, the national railroad, and the majority of the city’s infrastructure have to be demolished and rebuilt.

LKAB produced 26,9 million tonnes of iron ore products in 2016. LKAB are producing 90% of all the iron in Europe, enough to build more than six Eiffel Towers a day.

Project area:903
Level of Investment:469,672,255.23 USD allocated for the relocation of Kiruna
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:17.037 (2015)
Start of the conflict:18/10/2004
Company names or state enterprises:Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) from Sweden - Primary actor
Relevant government actors:The Kiruna Kommun and the Swedish Government

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Global warming
Other Environmental impactsFissures, subsidence, cracking and collapsing of ground due to mining
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsEmotional trauma
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:There has not been a resistence to this move articulating environmental injustice. There are some individual opponents to the move, however most of Kiruna's population are complacent to this fact.

Sources and Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] News article: Samis sour over time lost to Kiruna move

[1] LKAB's official website

[2] News article: Kiruna being moved 3km east so it doesn't fall into a mine

[3] News article: Forced displacement in Sweden - when a mine company demolishes and rebuilds an entire city

Other documents

The iron ore mine and the town of Kiruna Credit: Alice Own, 2017

Kiruna Heritage building Some of the historical Bläckhorn buildings are being moved to the new Kiruna. Credit: Daria Rivin, 2017

The iron ore mine and the town of Kiruna Credit: Alice Owen, 2017

Meta information

Contributor:Alice Owen, Mariko Takedomi Karlsson, Daria Rivin
Last update13/09/2017



The iron ore mine and the town of Kiruna

Credit: Alice Own, 2017

Kiruna Heritage building

Some of the historical Bläckhorn buildings are being moved to the new Kiruna. Credit: Daria Rivin, 2017

The iron ore mine and the town of Kiruna

Credit: Alice Owen, 2017