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).
Many local Sami organizations, villages, and local EJO Nätverket Stoppa Gruvan I Rönnbäck have protested and appealed to the decision to give Nickel Mountain AB permission to mine in the area. The area where the mine is to be located is crucial to the Samis for pasture rotation for their 8,000 reindeers. A mine in the area would completely eliminate the possibilities for the Sami people to have reindeers there since it is a narrow passage (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
A concern is also that the mine would be located in an area connected to the river Umeälven which has its estuary in the city of Umeå. The pollution of the river would thus have disastrous consequences for both humans and the environment along the river (4, 5).
The guidelines for the Swedish government to choose between two national interests are stated in the Swedish environmental law. They should choose the one that 'in the most appropriate way promotes a long-term management of the ground, the water and the physical environment in general' (My translation, Swedish Environmental Law, 1998:808, Ch. 3, 10§) (7). To this point the government has been leaning towards the mine and based the decision on the economic benefits that the mine would bring.