Expert committee under the UN criticizes Sweden

  • 2020-12-22
  • 16:07
  • News

An expert committee under the UN agency OHCHR calls on Sweden to withdraw a processing concession and change the law. Interpreted in a larger perspective, this could affect future processes for all development where land needs to be used in the northern half of Sweden.

–  It should of course be possible to combine conservation and development. Sustainable reindeer herding and other activities must be able to exist side by side. We expect Sweden to now adopt a holistic perspective on the issue and not take hasty conclusions as a result of the committee’s statement, says Maria Sunér Fleming, CEO of Svemin.

The UN Committee on Racial Discrimination calls on Sweden to redo the permit process in the mining project in Rönnbäcken outside Tärnaby. Sweden is criticized for not acting in accordance with the UN Convention against Racial Discrimination when the Sami village has not had the mining establishment tried in court, according to the committee. The committee also states that Sweden should also revise the legislation so that the Sami have a greater influence when it comes to the use of land and other natural resources in the reindeer herding area.

Svemin has taken a closer look at the opinion and notes that the issue extends far beyond the designated processing concession in Rönnbäcken. As the committee has formulated, the interpretation can be made that it not only concerns mining industry but also other land use, such as wind turbines and forestry industry and probably also infrastructure projects and urban developments.

–  It is a broader societal issue because it covers all activities within reindeer grazing land, i.e. more than 50 percent of Sweden’s area, says Maria Sunér Fleming.

Sweden is Europe’s most important mining nation and a large proportion of Sweden’s known and potential mineral deposits are located in the area covered by reindeer husbandry rights according to the Reindeer Herding Act. The area used for mining purposes is very limited in this context, less than 0.5 percent of the country’s area. At the same time, the extraction of minerals is necessary for modern society and a prerequisite for meeting the climate goals.

Recently, a raw materials strategy was presented by the European Commission based on the most critical metals and minerals required for Europe to cope with climate adaptation and adaptation. More than half of the raw materials have potential in Sweden, but none of them are extracted yet.

– Sweden has a rich bedrock and good opportunities to contribute to achieving the climate goals. We also have the world’s most climate-efficient mining industries and the industry has just launched a roadmap for how the industry should contribute to a net positive impact on the biological diversity in the regions we operate, Maria Sunér Fleming says.

Extraction of metals and minerals must be carried out where the deposit is located. As many of Sweden’s ore deposits are located in the reindeer husbandry area, the industry has adopted a policy, Indigenous People and Mineral Extraction (Swe. available in English shortly) which all Svemin’s member companies in reindeer herding areas are expected to follow. The focus is on knowledge building and dialogue that provides the conditions for reindeer herding and mining to continue to be conducted side by side in the long term.

–  It should of course be possible to combine conservation and development. Sustainable reindeer husbandry and other activities must be able to exist side by side. We do not see that this would lead to a reconsideration of the current processing concession as it has been granted in accordance with current legislation, says Maria Sunér Fleming.

– The UN Committee on Racial Discrimination has been examining the matter with the planned mine in Rönnbäcken for seven years, the issue is complicated. The opinion is nevertheless remarkable, she continues.

– Sweden has only 90 days to respond to the committee. In this context, it is an extremely short time to deal with difficult legal and political issues. We, and other actors in reindeer grazing land, assume that Sweden now deals with the issues with the high demands on legal security and political anchoring that society expects, Maria Sunér Fleming concludes.

Read the opinion of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD (eng.) here.