Saami communities protest against mining on their lands in the Kalix River Valley


Community press release

Date of publication: 
19 September 2011

The Saami reindeer herding communities of Girjas and Laevas in Northern Sweden have recently expressed their firm opposition over Australian backed Kiruna Iron AB’s plans to mine in the Kalix River Valley. The proposed mining activities of Kiruna Iron would destroy the environment and wipe out Girjas and Laevas possibility to pursue their traditional livelihood of reindeer herding, as inherited from their ancestors.

The Saami Council and the Swedish Saami Association (SSR) are now rallying behind the communities in order to ensure that indigenous rights are protected and that no exploration or mining takes place.

“Kiruna Iron’s planned exploitation would violate fundamental human rights of the local Saami reindeer herders”, says Mattias Åhrén, Chief Lawyer at Saami Council. “The communities hold property rights to land under Swedish and international law. In addition, reindeer herding is protected under the right to culture. If necessary, we will bring this matter to relative authorities”, he continuous.

Those backing Kiruna Iron also contribute to human rights violations. As such, the Saami Council plan to contact Scandinavian Resources business partners and investors – both existing and potential – and advise them of the high environmental and social risks associated with mining in the Kalix River Valley. “Without the consent of local Saami communities, this project is doomed to fail,” says Mattias Åhrén.

“It is ironic that a company with backing from Australia – a country where indigenous rights are well recognised – would come to Sweden and ignore the Saami people’s right to say no to exploration and mining” says Anders Blom, from SSR.

The Saami Council and SSR have run similar successful campaigns in the past, targeting companies that do not respect Saami rights, by undertaking shareholder and investor dialogues, media campaigns and filing complaints with the domestic governments of foreign companies and international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Committee.

Kiruna Iron AB, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian listed Scandinavian Resources Ltd (ASX:SCR), plan to apply for planning permission for two mines – one for Ruovdenjunnji/Ekströmsberg and one for Rakkurijokki. This planning permission is the first step towards opening the mines and the environmental impact assessment processes have already begun. Ruovdenjunnji, south of the Kalix river, is in previously undeveloped mountain areas. Both proposed mine sites are in nationally recognised reindeer herding zones and within Natura 2000 protected areas.

The Saami Council is a Saami umbrella organisation respresenting Saami organisations across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. It has consultative status before the ECOSOC and is a member of the Arctic Council.

For more information contact: Mattias Åhrén, mobile phone no. +47 47 37 91 61 or Anders Blom +46 70 514 44 80