The news that the court rejects LKAB’s application for a new permit for the operations in the mine in Kiruna sent shockwaves through Industrial Sweden on Tuesday.
– This is one of the most comprehensive environmental permit applications ever made in Sweden, that it falls on a pure formal detail is a strong disapproval of the entire system, says Maria Sunér.
Permit issues have long been the biggest challenge for the mining industry. Of course, relevant and high environmental requirements must be set for mining operations, as well as for all other operations that affect the environment. The Swedish mining industry is and will continue to be a global leader in terms of sustainable extraction of metal and minerals.
– But today’s system for permit processes signals that the mining industry should not bother in Sweden, says Maria Sunér.
Unfortunately, LKAB is not alone in having been affected by a poorly functioning permit system. The surprising announcement on Tuesday was just another in a series of high-profile cases where the system for permit processes is setting the stage for development in the industry. The tours around Cementa and Kaunis Iron are highly topical, as is Kallak, who is stuck in a political deadlock.
– We do not complain that extensive environmental assessments must be carried out, but the process itself must be legally secure and predictable. To reform today’s systemic error requires a political will, says Maria Sunér.
The Swedish mining and mineral industry, which is already today a leading supplier of sustainable and climate-neutral raw materials, has set ambitious goals for fossil-free and biological diversity; fossil-free mining processes in 2035 and subsequent process steps in 2045, as well as contributing net positively to biodiversity in 2030.
Some of the world’s most productive mines and most successful manufacturers of underground equipment are located in Sweden and the mining industry contributes substantially to the Swedish economy and to job creation. Collaboration on research and innovation within the mining cluster is unique and has led to this world-leading position.
We see how many of the major industrial and social investments that are now being made in Sweden are based on the value chain that starts in our bedrock. And there is great potential for more. Existing mining and mineral companies are ready to invest in the future with billions of investments and more raw materials can be refined into climate-smart building blocks for the net-zero society. Sweden’s rich bedrock – where most of the minerals listed by the EU as critical are found – provides unique opportunities to contribute to Europe’s climate transition.
– But despite the possibilities, we see how the development is going in the wrong direction, the system error must be solved otherwise Sweden as an industrial nation risks weakening, and important investments for the economy and climate change will not happen. A small formal detail should not be allowed to overturn several years of work, says Maria Sunér.
The court states in its decision that LKAB should have called “particularly affected” homeowners with geothermal heat for consultation prior to the permit application. LKAB’s starting point has been that almost all residents of Kiruna are particularly affected, and have therefore invited everyone in the same way. LKAB has offered to supplement with extra consultations afterwards, but the court did not accept this but said that this should have taken place in 2017. LKAB’s investment of SEK 400 billion to make CO₂-free sponge iron and reduce emissions corresponding to two thirds of all of Sweden’s CO₂ emissions are threatened if there is no change in how the system works.
> Read the decision from the Land and Environmental Court in Umeå here (Swe.)
> Read LKAB:s press release here (Swe.)