Saami Communities tell British mining company to respect their rights


National Saami Association (SSR) Press Release

Date of publication: 
23 November 2011

Saami Communities tell British mining company to respect their rights [Extractive industries, Corporate Responsibility, FPIC – Company: Beowulf Mining, Scandinavian Resources Ltd, Kiruna Iron AB, Region: Europe]

Beowulf, a British based mining company, are currently in breach of internal human rights conventions by not respecting the right of local Indigenous Saami communities of Sirges and Jåhkågasska in Jokkmokk, Northern Sweden, to participate in negotiations concerning mining activities that affect their customary reindeer grazing lands. The company’s conduct is not only in violation of international conventions, but also in breach of ethical guidelines that the company themselves claim to follow.
In contrast to what Beowulf has reported to its shareholders, the company has not shown any willingness to cooperate with Saami communities, as required by international conventions. This is demonstrated by the company’s refusal to assist the communities’ participation in impact assessments, which are necessary to obtain knowledge of how the proposed mining would impact upon the Saami communities and their land uses.
“Beowulf’s behavior is extremely disrespectful. It suggests both a great reluctance to engage with Indigenous People and a lack of knowledge of indigenous rights. Mineral exploration in an area inhabited by Indigenous People requires indigenous consent to the project. But this also assumes that the company engages with the affected indigenous community, and this is something Beowulf has not done” says Mattias Pirak, Jåhkågasska tjiellde.
The Saami communities are Indigenous Peoplea and a national ethnic minority protected by the Swedish constitution and international conventions. The company’s mining plans affect the grazing heartlands of the Saami community, without which they cannot continuously pursue their traditional reindeer herding. The Jokkmokk municipality is constituted by a large Saami population with several different Saami communities. Since time immemorial the Saami communities have engaged in reindeer herding in northern Sweden and today reindeer husbandry is one of the most important employers in Jokkmokk.
“The Sami culture within the municipality is alive and vital. Reindeer husbandry and its ancillary industries have helped to create a living landscape, both historically and into the present, as recently confirmed by the established of the World Heritage area of Laponia, instituted with respect for the unique nature and culture that have long existed in the area. Any mining project will not only affect our communities, but also neighbouring ones” says Jakob Nygard, Sirges Saami community.
The mining plans will affect those Saami communities within close proximity to the mine, but also impact upon others given the negative impacts of additional traffic due to transportation of the mined ore. Reindeer herding requires large tracts of land in order to survive and the municipality of Jokkmokk is clearly defined as reindeer grazing area.
For further information contact:-
Jenny Wik Karlsson
SSR – The National Saami Association
Phone + 46 90 14 11 8 cellphone + 46 72 202 12 00 email jenny [at] sapmi [dot] se