Showing consideration and respect, and understanding each other’s needs and rights through increased communication is essential. Social license to operate is the recipe for a successful symbiosis between mines and society. The State-owned mining company, LKAB, has been operating in Kiruna, in northern Sweden, for a little over 125 years now – a time during which the city has been founded, grown and developed in tandem with iron ore production, to become what it is today: a vibrant, trilingual community with a population of 23,000.
The iron ore deposit extends below the current city centre area so the city is going to be moved in what is a unique project that is attracting global attention. Never before has such a large community been transformed simply because an industrial operation needs the land on which it stands.
At the same time, LKAB is also planning to open more mines, the largest of which – Mertainen – will be sited in forested areas with a rich natural heritage and which are the site of reindeer husbandry operations. LKAB intends to compensate for the impact of its operations by protecting the same amount of forested land in the local area – areas of equal importance from a natural heritage viewpoint but which are currently unprotected. This will mean protecting forests that would otherwise have been subject to forestry operations and will help ensure not only that biodiversity is increased, but that the area becomes a protected resource for reindeer husbandry.
LKAB and the indigenous Sami villages are also running a joint GPS tagging project for reindeer that will make it easier for the villagers to gather and relocate the reindeer, and will also facilitate studies of the ways in which the reindeer react to the mining operations.
It isn’t always easy, but for over 125 years now, LKAB has shown that it is possible to combine largescale industrial production with long-term sustainability and consideration for the local community. Showing consideration and respecting each other’s needs and rights leads to just one thing: joint success.