Iron mining in public interest, court finds

By Arctic Business Journal - December 2, 2022
Kaunis Iron will be permitted to keep operating, but it will not be able to expand by as much as it had hoped (📸: Kaunis Iron / Burban Studios)

A RULING BY a Swedish court has paved the way for Kaunis Iron to proceed with its plans to open two open-pit mines, to expand operations at a third and to increase production at the firm’s processing facility.

The decision by the Swedish Land and Environmental Court came after county officials in Norrbotten, together with national environmental and water regulators, as well as a local Sámi interest group, had requested that Kaunis Iron not be given permission to continue operations in Pajala council.

In its ruling, the court agreed that Kaunis Iron’s operations would inconvenience reindeer herding and erode the natural environment. But it concluded that the impact could be limited by capping the amount of ore Kaunis Iron was allowed to extract to 10 million tons per year for the next 35 years, rather than the 20 million tons a year the firm had hoped for.

The decision comes after the same court, in January, turned down a request by Sweden’s environmental regulators to revoke Kaunis Iron’s existing licence, although it said the firm must limit operations to the 7 million tones of ore a year permitted under the licence it held at the time.

As part of yesterday’s decision, the court ruled that Kaunis Iron could be granted dispensation from certain environmental regulations to expand operations on the grounds that the mines were in the national interest.

It also noted that the extensive environmental restoration measures the Kaunis Iron was required to undertake would limit its ultimate impact.

“This secures mining operations going forward and enables us to build for the long-term for the benefit of future generations, as well as allowing us to explore for additional new deposits,” Klas Dagertun, the managing director of Kaunis Iron, said after yesterday’s decision.

According to a survey commissioned by Kaunis Iron, 88% of the residents of Pajala support its plans to expand operations, which will sustain some 500 jobs.

This article has been fact-checked by Arctic Business Journal and Polar Research and Policy Initiative, with the support of the EMIF managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

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