Swedish mining industry FAQ
Here we have collected some common questions and answers about the Swedish mining industry.
Who is entitled to minerals in the bedrock?
In Sweden, for hundreds of years, anyone who has the prerequisites to investigate or mine a mineral deposit can be granted a permit, today according to the Mineral Act, and to do so regardless of who owns the land, i.e. has ownership of the land. The authority appointed to decide on such permits is the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden. Mines can only be started on their own land or on land where there is a utilization agreement with the landowner. In practice, mining companies and landowners are often the same legal entity.
Why aren’t the metals already mined enough?
There aren’t enough metals for everyone. This is not just the case for us in the Western world. The millions of people who are currently on the verge of getting out of poverty have no chance of developing against the standard we take for granted without adding more metals into the circular system.
But it should be remembered that metals are elements and therefore recyclable repeatedly and fits perfectly into the sustainable society and in the circular economy.
Another reason why more metals are needed is the new advanced technology, many times for environmental purposes. The technology requires new types of metals that have not been used before and need to be developed to a greater extent, such as rare earth metals.
Why not invest in metal recycling instead of opening new mines?
We are good at recycling metals in Sweden. In 2013, for example, the world’s largest recycling facility for scrap electronics was opened in Skellefteå. But certainly, society can be even better. However, it should be remembered that recycling can only replace a small part of the increasing need for metals needed around the world.
For example, it will take until 2100 before recycling can account for half of the amount of rare earth metals that we expect Europe and the world will need then. Alternatives are needed. The option that the Commission considers to be safest and most realistic, from a supply point of view, is increased mining in Europe. European mining can gradually secure the supply of certain critical minerals and metals while limiting the unethical and illegal extraction, especially in Africa.
Elements such as iron and copper are sometimes referred to in the debate as “finite resources”. But that is not true. Iron and copper (and other metals) are elements and can be recycled for endless times. Here, a logical fallacy often occurs when the oil industry is the starting point. Oil is not an element.
What is ore?
Ore is an economic concept and what is defined as ore can strangely vary from one day to another. Because what determines whether a mineral is counted as ore is whether it would be profitable to mine, in which case it is counted as ore. In other words, it depends on the world market price of the metal in the mineral and the cost of mining and bringing the metal to market. In short, ore is a geologically formed concentration of one or more metallic minerals that is high enough in its concentration and in a suitable form, in a suitable place, and therefore economically profitable to mine.
How do you get permission to open a mine?
It’s not easy. Mining operations are surrounded by extensive legislation and regulations that must be complied with before, during and after production. Since it is necessary for society to have access to metals, there is a mineral law that will enable mining in the best possible way. It is important that all activities that risk affecting nature are thoroughly tested in accordance with the Environmental Code. But today’s system needs to be improved. Permit processes and examinations must become more efficient and predictable. For everyone involved. Here you can read more about permit examinations and examination permits.
How sustainable is the mining industry?
The Swedish mining and mineral industry is today world-class. The mining and minerals industry is responsible and the operations are conducted with respect for and with respect for the environment and the communities in which it operates.
All human activity affects the environment. This also applies to mines. When metals and minerals are mined, the local environment around the mine is affected. How much the environment may be affected is determined by the Environmental Code that exists to protect nature, people and ecosystems. Sustainable mining and mineral industry entails both an active environmental and climate consideration and a social responsibility for both employees and those who live and work in the vicinity of a business. Sweden has one of the world’s toughest and strictest environmental laws, which the mining industry complies with. But the climate and environmental ambitions of the companies extend beyond that – there are several own initiatives and projects in the industry whose goal is an even more sustainable industry with climate-smart processes with great consideration for people, the environment and the future.
The industry is unique in that the deposits are located where they have been for millions of years. The location of minerals cannot be changed. It requires consideration in several dimensions. Furthermore, metals are elements that do not disappear or are consumed, unlike, for example, oil and gas, which are decomposed when used. Metals can be used, reshaped, and recycled. Metals are thus not destroyed by human use but are carried from nature to our cycles through mining and enrichment. In a sustainable society, the aim is to close the cycle so that our raw material consumption will be sustainable over time, and in principle everything we consume can be reused or recycled. In this way, our generation, provided that production, reuse and recycling are done efficiently, can create conditions for future generations to use and utilize metallic raw materials in the most efficient way.
> Read more about sustainability initiatives in the mining industry here
How climate-efficient is the mining industry?
The mining industry is an energy-intensive industry, especially on the smelter side. But in recent decades, huge successful efforts have been made to reduce emissions. For example, LKAB has invested SEK 1.5 billion in three exhaust gas purification plants in Malmberget and in Svappavaara. The plant cleans exhaust gas in the pellet plant from acidifying substances, where emissions of sulfur, chlorine, fluorine and dust are reduced by 90 percent compared to the previous.
In order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Boliden utilizes surplus heat at the smelters, and at all mines far-reaching energy efficiency programs are in progress. In 2016, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT – an initiative that endeavors to revolutionize steelmaking. HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen. The result will be the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.
During 2018, work started on the construction of a pilot plant for fossil-free steel production in Luleå, Sweden. The goal is to have a solution for fossil-free steel by 2035. If successful, HYBRIT means that together we can reduce Sweden’s CO2 emissions by 10% and Finland’s by 7%
How much consideration does the mining industry take to the reindeer herding interests?
The Swedish mining industry has a long-standing and constructive cooperation with the Sami villages affected by mining, in most cases solutions have been found that make it possible to combine the reindeer herding and mining industry. It is specifically about adjusting, for example, when during the year companies plan their exploration activities so that the herding is not disturbed. The mining industry is paying and will continue to pay close attention to the reindeer herding interests.
What impact would an increased mining industry have on the reindeer herding?
Each new establishment of a mine has been preceded by years of planning and dialogue, among other things with neighboring residents, including those engaged in reindeer herding. Any impact is analyzed on a case-by-case basis, whereby solutions are agreed that are acceptable to both parties. The goal is for both mining and reindeer herding to coexist.
In what way does the mining industry talk with the Sami about future mines?
Mining companies are in continuous dialogue with the Sami. In the case of new start-ups and expansions, more targeted dialogue takes place with specific stakeholders and interested parties. This is also done in the social part of the environmental impact assessment. Remember, the goal is for both mining and reindeer herding to coexist. Further reading – Svemin’s position document on indigenous people and mineral extraction here.
What do mining companies do to prevent a mine from being a danger to the environment?
The Swedish mining and mineral companies follow strict and rigorous environmental legislation. They also have sustainability work that transcends legislation, with their own environmental goals, implemented environmental management systems and development work.
In addition, the climate-smart Swedish operations mean that increased production here leads to reduced emissions globally.
Who bears responsibility for the environment when the mine is closed?
Remediation is restoring the area where the mine has been in operation so that it becomes a natural part of the surrounding landscape again. The goal is to create a long-term solution that does not harm the environment or involve safety risks for nature and people. The method used is determined by the conditions of the specific area.
The Environmental Code sets requirements for plans and finances for remediation of the mining area. The Environmental Code’s principle that the polluter is responsible applies. In 2019, approximately SEK 3.5 billion was set aside by the mining companies in Sweden for this. A company may not open a mine unless money has been set aside to finish the area when the mine is closed. Money is locked with the County Administrative Board for the company until the mine is closed and remediated.
Read more about land and remediation from LKAB here and from Boliden here.