Who is entitled to the mineral? And other important mining questions.

Here we have gathered a few common questions and answers about the Swedish mining industry. Missing a Q&A? Email your question to info@svemin.se

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.

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 vary over time. In other words: a geologically formed concentration of one or more metal-containing minerals that is sufficiently high in appropriate form and therefore economically profitable to mine.

Why is it so easy to get permission to open a mine?

It is not easy, mining is 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 according to the Environmental Act. But today’s system needs improvement. Permit management must be more efficient and predictable. For everyone involved.

How sustainable is the mining industry?

The Swedish mining and mineral industry are today world class. The industry is responsible, and the operations are conducted with due regard for the environment and the communities in which it operates.

The industry is unique in that the deposits are where they are; the location of the 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 that decompose when used. Metals can be used, reshaped, and recycled. Thus, metals are not destroyed by human use, but are transferred from nature to our cycles through refraction and enrichment. In a sustainable society, the endeavor 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, provided our production, recycling and recycling are done efficiently, our generation can create the conditions for future generations to use and utilize metallic raw materials in the most efficient way.

Why is the mining industry so dirty?

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%

Why do big profits from the Swedish mining industry disappear from Sweden?

They don’t. 12 of our 14 producing metal mines in Sweden are wholly owned in Sweden (2016).

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.

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?

Already during the exploration phase, plans are being made for how the mining area will be taken care of when production is over. Today, there is a requirement that the company allocate funds for the post-treatment. A total of almost SEK 3.5 billion is available today in financial collateral.

When the production phase is over, the traces after the mine should be as small as possible.

Read more about land and remediation from LKAB here and from Boliden here.