Monthly Archives: June 2014

Kiruna day 3

June 25 – LKAB’s Kiruna Mine, Interview with Göran Cars, and Hjalmar Lundbohm Museum

This morning we woke up bright and early for a tour of LKAB’s Kiruna Mine. The mine is located in Kirunavaara, which means “Ptarmigan Mountain” in Sami. This mine is the largest underground iron mine in the world, and relies on an ore body 4 kilometers wide and 80 meters thick. No one knows how deep the ore body goes, but it extends far under the town of Kiruna – causing problems for the residents and for LKAB.

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LKAB touts itself as a “green” mining company. During our brief tour of their underground visitor center, the tour guide and video supplements emphasized the sustainability of their mining practices. From their front-end loaders powered by 1000 watts of hydroelectric power, to their 15,000 horsepower trains that generate their own electricity as they charge down Sweden’s mountains to the sea, LKAB’s practices seem to be focused on green energy. A closer look, however, reveals that cost-effectiveness and productivity are the true reasons behind their greenness. The trains cost next to nothing to operate, and if the front-end loaders didn’t run on electricity, diesel fumes would make the work environment unhealthy.

Whatever their motives, the mine tour was fascinating and fun. We learned about their unique mine, their plans to move Kiruna, and the sheer amount of planning involved with efficiently moving 2% of the world’s annual iron ore production. At the end of the tour, we were given a sample of the concentrated magnetite pellets that make the mine – and the town of Kiruna – possible. Some of us stocked up on pellets, hoping to score on the worldwide iron market. But when we learned that the pellets were worth only 1 SEK per kilo, we were left with nothing but dashed hopes and some heavy souvenirs.

After the mine, we ate lunch, explored, and went to city hall to learn about Kiruna’s planned move.

“Architecture isn’t primarily about buildings. It concerns people and their needs. And from their wishes and dreams, architecture grows.” A presentation about moving kiruna city was given by the project manager, Göran Cars, who is a professor in Urban Planning at KTH and works together with a development group from the Kiruna Municipality. According to his presentation, the present city center has to be moved due to the mining activity. When first start digging the mine it was on the surface and they started digging underground in 1960s. The ore body is sliding 60 degrees angle under the city so they have to move the city and some of the buildings to someplace where is safe. If the mine is closed down, 2/3 of the population in Kiruna will be directly or indirectly affected. Kiruna is about 20000 km2 and has 23000 inhabitants. The moving project will cost about 25 billion SEK and it is carried out by LKAB. The taxpayers in Kiruna should not be affected.

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Because the tourism industry is now booming in Kiruna, the new city needs to be more attractive. The new city center will become the symbol of Kiruna and has the most beautiful buildings in Sweden according to Cars. The construction was started last September. According to Cars, one of the reasons that the moving plan is successful is because the political parties in Kiruna agree on it.

There are still many issues at stake: stakeholders with conflicting interesting, mutual interdependence between stakeholders (politicians, residents, business, real estate owners, LKAB, County administration Board, the Swedish Transport Administration, Investors, Developers). The municipality is still working on making agreement between the stakeholders. Then what are residents’ expectations of future Kiruna? According to the survey, residents want to have a shopping center where can shop both sides of the street; a city square where has meeting places and hotels; a modern theater which can be used for holding conference and showing movies. The project is now under rush and the city hall will be the first building to be affected.

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The day wrapped up with a visit at Hjalmar Lundbohm’s former home, which is now a museum. Inside, we learned a lot about the history of Kiruna, which began as a wild, ragged mining town. Hjalmar Lundbohm, LKAB’s first manager, turned the town into a model community by supporting schools, churches, and the arts. In addition, Lundbohm banned hard liquor but this didn’t stop him from enjoying cognac and cigars in his lounge!

Kate Tyndell and Jinhui Wang

Kiruna day 2

The industrial age hasn’t left us; rather, it, in a strange parody of nature, evolves in its own way. This morning, we visited the Aitik mine in Gällivare, about an hour and a half outside of Kiruna. The car ride there was full of nature and Nordic-ness (which are very much in the same vein of thought, if not synonyms): trees, natural streams, and Björk, among other things. Yet, upon arriving to Aitik, the shift from natural to man-made was striking: trees became crushed gravel and grassy planes became a sleek building that required hospital-esque plastic booties over hiking boots as not to damage a painstakingly clean floor. The mine hadn’t been seen in person, but postcards and informational flyers hinted at what was to come. (And, as a bonus, there was free coffee and candy.)

After donning rubber boots, smocks, hard-hats, and reflective gear at the initial station, the complete shift to an industrial mindset kicked in. Factories are big around small-town USA, and the feelings of getting ready to see the mining facilities felt just like preparation for touring an American factory. Our first stop was a look into the new pit, which is 3 x 3 x1 km. The gaping hole had turquoise water at the bottom, which our guide noted as being attributed to the large amounts of copper. She later explained that in the concentration of copper in the water from the mine is limited by 40 kg a year. Overall, the environment was dirty and dismal, contrasted only with the beautiful forests and sloping hills outside of the mine.

From a distance, the vehicles doing the work looked like child’s toys: big Tonka dump-trucks and little Hot-Wheels pick-up trucks. However, we got the chance to play on one of those “Tonka trucks” at the next stop (the machine repairs) and they were far from miniscule. They are massive, with just the tires dwarfing a person. The view from up on the driver’s ‘deck’ showed many blind spots and an impressive height. We learned that these vehicles are hard workers: they usually take out 40 tonnes of material per truck and can be in operation for more than 10,000 hours. As mine production has gotten bigger, the trucks have gotten bigger in an almost ridiculous parody of nature.

june 24 -1Tonka truck up close. Otto for scale.

Finally, we stopped at the refining part of Aitik, where in another humorous parody of nature, the lawn was dwarfed by a decorative lake with plastic ducks and swans. The tailing pond beside the refining plant was about the size of Södermalm; as mine production grows, so does the pond. Inside another sleek building, we learned about the history of Aitik, starting with chalcopyrite being found at the sight in the 1930’s. As of right now, production stands at over 38 million tonnes/year; the equipment and processes continue to evolve to get the most out of the copper mined: our guide explained that they can mine 0.2% copper and have 25% copper by the end of the refining process and are efficient enough to use 92% of all copper mined. Our final stop before taking a break in a very modern lunch room was one of the refining rooms. Feeling like a Dwarf of Erebor, I watched modern machines froth and bubble up liquid metals in a large scale-refining process.

In terms of production, Aitik is scheduled to increase its production of copper by means of continuing to dig in their new pit. Aside from copper, Aitik also pulls up silver and gold. To potentially increase profits, they are looking at refining methods that would pull out gold. Additionally, they are looking for ways to lessen the copper in the water; their strategy for landscape recovery includes a good bit of water. In any case, Aitik’s people were friendly, the buildings spotless, and, like any good business, are looking for any ways to continue to up production, even if it means going bigger.

As a bridge into the afternoon, the Malmberget mine was inaccessible, but museums around it were of interest. The two visited—the Mining Museum and a reconstruction of Malmberget’s original shanty town, had conflicting stories. The Mining Museum was essentially promoting LKAB. It was a good resource; however, for a brief history of industry through a company’s point of view. The reconstructed shanty-town, on the other hand, was a narrative of what Malmberget was initially, which seemed to be a mixture of poor, hardworking, and, in this reconstruction, super creepy.

 

june 24 24. The reconstruction of the shanty-town. Alias: I thought I was in a horror movie.

Some mines slowly devour their surroundings, trees, flowers, landscapes, even towns might disappear bit by bit into a seemingly never ending pit. For a sudden and unaware visitor, this process might be difficult to spot. The birds sing as usual and the greenery is as green as ever.

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But unexpected and often ill-tended fences, roads that end as if they pass through an invisible portal and strange signs with WARNING in capital letters could reveal an enormous hole just on the other side of the tree line. You might not be able to see it, but it is there. If you would sleep over you might feel the midnight rumbling hiccup from deep below. If you would stay for decades and be able to fly across the landscape it would be obvious. The pit is growing and not stopping for anything. Like a force of nature but of the needs or greed of humankind.

Old structures from previous mining eras act as post-apocalyptic playgrounds, standing tall and trying to resist corrosion, reaching through the grass and flowers that eventually will take over with time. They patiently wait and willingly share their memories with us who are fascinated by what was.

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6: Parts of the lift that during one period carried ore out of the Malmberget mine.

When looking at an active open pit mine up close, if it’s large enough, it’s difficult to understand how this landscape could ever be restored, is that even the intention? What does “restore” mean? What time perspective do we have?

We live fast, our lives are filled with technology that makes everything work faster, easier. We cannot watch old movies. They are normally to slow. We fall asleep in lectures. We get anxious when we don’t have anything to do. It’s difficult to understand the time it will take for a landscape to recover (not being restored). Nature needs time to reclaim an area. The natural succession where bare rock eventually becomes forest could take hundreds of years. Are we prepared to wait?

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We try to help by planting trees, bringing in soil, spreading seeds. But maybe nature does this job better than we do. Maybe we should just make sure that none of the pollutants that were once stuck in the rock, are released into the environment.

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And maybe we should get rid of the fences. Nature doesn’t like fences, and neither do visitors.

Otto Rimfors and Erica Sheeran

 

 

Day 1 in Kiruna

The day began with a lecture by Åsa Persson, leader of the Mining Inspectorate (Bergsstaten), a governmental agency responsible for decisions concerning permits for exploration and mining. It was very interesting to hear her presentation of the decision-making behind the mining operations in the northern territories of Sweden. In the presentation, she gave an overview on how different companies apply for exploration permits, how the Mining Inspectorate tries to evaluate the capability of the interested party to actually perform development in the area, and the other steps that are necessary when attempting to establish a mine. Mining and exploration activities need to comply with environmental regulations, and applicants may be rejected if they are obviously incapable of conforming to the regulations, or have a record of violating rules. We learned about controversies that may arise in this business regarding the decisions made by the Mining Inspectorate. The only areas that are protected from mining are state-owned national parks and city areas that are defined for a specific usage in the municipality area plans.

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We also got a more detailed insight in Kiruna’s status as a mining town, and why a significant amount of people actually are supportive of the upcoming move of the town, even if it means that their homes will be demolished, and that they’ll have to be relocated to new ones. Studies have shown that parts of Kiruna will collapse into the ground as mining activities goes deeper into the ground, which ultimately led to the decision to relocate the inhabitants and companies. The mining activities are the main sources of income for the town, and many are aware of the fact that it’s a very remote community with relatively limited opportunities to support its existence at the current state, should the mining be stopped.

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The group had prepared a set of questions before the meeting and a lot of them revolved around the area’s status as native Sami lands. One of the questions asked was if Åsa Persson’s opinion on the aspects that make Sweden different from other countries that traditionally are associated with colonialism. It was apparently hard to find a good answer, but one noticeable difference was the fact that the Sami weren’t associated with a lower socio-economic status, as native populations in some other states in many cases do. Another question was whether there were any people from the Sami communities in the Mining Inspectorate. The answer was that there were none. Negotiations are usually held with Sami people that are affected by mining activities, but none from the community are part of the Mining Inspectorate’s authority to make final decisions on resource extraction.

In the afternoon our field work task was to explore the mining landscape at the mountain Luossavaara – one of the main mining areas at Kiruna, nowadays closed. We studied the area – and the way the Kiruna municipality narrates it – by hiking up the Midnight sun trail (Midnattssolstigen). The trail was about 4.5 kilometers. At the top we were asked to document the sights of the landscape and how we believed humans had overall changed the landscape. The landscape at first glance looks untouched but when taking a closer look one can see many differences that have been affected by mankind. In the distance there were many electrical wires and also open-pit mines that had been refilled with water and made into lakes. There were also a large and flat plateau which was clearly not natural to the landscape. Another interesting point to bring up was that even the trail and the signs that surrounded us were changes to the landscape that had been implemented to this area. The largest and most apparent of all the changes to the landscape was of course the iron mine that had created an unnatural canyon near this trail.

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Some important questions to consider when viewing these changes are who and what are they going to affect? Will they have effects on the reindeer herding activities of the Sami? Or perhaps will they have an effect of the balance of the ecosystem and the health of the inhabitants? These all serve as reminders of how mankind has changed and will continue to change the Arctic.

 

Alexandar Vujadinovic and Kyle Morrison

 

Photographs by Alexandar Vujadinovic (CC BY-SA 4.0, 23 June 2014)

Week 2

During week two we focused on land-formation and changes due to glacial movement and climate change in the Arctic regions. In the beginning of the week we discussed how climate change is affecting the arctic region more than other parts of the world. This is due in large part to energy transfers in both ocean and atmospheric currents. Pole ward heat transport occurs as extra energy from the tropics is exported to the poles, creating larger increases in temperature at the poles. Specifically, the Arctic is heating faster due to local feedback effects of albedo when the ice melts, and the Arctic has greater amplitudes in the rosby waves in the atmosphere.

Later in the week we looked at glacial dynamics and movement. Over time, as snow falls and layers on itself, it changes in shape and density. Snow begins as feathery and delicate flakes. As it settles and packs it changes to more hardened grain-shaped textures. It also continuously melts and refreezes. This increases density, changing from 200 kg/m3 to 840 kg/m3 over the course of about 120 years. In addition, as the ice increases in density air gets trapped in the glacier. This has recently been used to analyze the atmosphere’s composition over time.

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There are three main types of glacial movement, depending on different characteristics of the glacier. Internal deformation, or creep, occurs when the glacier is frozen to the bedrock, and this movement dominates for cold-based glaciers. Glaciers can also move by sliding across the bed, or basil sliding, within warm-based glaciers. The final type of movement is deformation or flow of underlying sediment sliding across till, which also occurs for warm-based glaciers. Furthermore, different parts of the glacier move at different velocities. The center of a glacier moves much faster than the edges due to less friction. The glacier can also be divided in to two parts. The top half is know as the accumulation zone, where snow and ice increase from snowfall, wind-drift, and avalanching. The bottom half is know as the ablation zone, where ice leaves the glacial system due to melting, calving, and sublimation. In the middle of these two zones is the ideal place to take ice cores for examining the atmosphere, because snow falls straight down at that spot, as opposed to curving away from the initial point.

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At the end of the week we looked at how glaciers affected Stockholm in particular. The esker in the glacier covering Stockholm created hills, which used to be the bed of a river. As Stockholm was built, part of the esker was flattened and the material was used for building. In addition, water moves easily through the esker, and as it moves it is cleaned. This was convenient, because wells at the top of the esker would produce clean water, providing the city with a reliable resource. Another affect of the glacier on Stockholm’s landscape is the constant land-rise of the city, creating the appearance of sea levels falling. This is due to glacial isostatic rebound, occurring at about 3 mm per year. We were able to observe these effects in person. We visited King Carl IX’s fishing house from the late 1600s. While it used to be on the edge of the water, we had to walk several meters to reach today’s edge, providing us with a clear representation of the land being created from the isostatic rebound. We finished the week by discussing different periglacial processes and landforms, which we hope to see in the Arctic!

Lauren Krone and Samantha Morrow

 

 

Week 1

The first week of the course took place at KTH and the focus was on societal changes in the Arctic. We followed a number of lectures focusing on the following topics:

The Arctic region.

There is not a single way of defining the Arctic region. Different methods are used when it comes to defining what the Arctic is. These can be geographical, e.g. defining the Arctic as a region north of the Arctic Circle, climatological, e.g. the Arctic is then defined as an area north of a 10°C July isotherm, biological, e.g. tree line can be used to define the Arctic region (the Arctic starts where the trees are not capable of growing) and political, e.g. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP). No matter which definition is used the Arctic remains a large part of the Earth’s surface with an area of approx. 40 million square kilometers. There are 8 states that have their territories in the Arctic: Russia, USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. As of now there are 4 million people living in the Arctic, 10 % of which are indigenous people.

Governance in a changing Arctic.  

Governance is part of the social structure that organizes society.  it is a collective effort of society to define and achieve social goals as a navigation device for addressing social challenges.  As institutions, there are jointly agrees norms, roles and procedures that guide behavior and expectations of each other.  Goals of governance include designating a homeland for indigenous people, opening lands of discovery and military arenas, and to create an environmental linchpin.  The Arctic Council is one such governing body aimed for these goals.  It is a soft law body consisting of 8 states with stake in the Arctic  including United States, Russia, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Finland. There is also UNCLOS which governs the law in Arctic waters.  Some factors that go into governing a changing Arctic include managing natural resources, ensuring ecosystem services, and guiding adaptation and transformation.

Sweden in the Arctic.

Sweden has had a long history in the Arctic dating back to the 13th century.  The motives were to gain power through expansion and add taxation, increasing income.  Later the Arctic became an important location for the lucrative whaling business, and after that it became important for resources, scientific research and military defense.  Most of Swedens income is still coming from lumber and mining from the northern part.  From the 18th century there has been increased curiosity in the science and natural phenomena, and has continued since then.  During the 19th century there was a large amount of scientific expeditions to the Arctic.

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Sami in Sapmi.  

The Sapmi region is a transnational region spanning 4 countries – Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Sapmi makes up 35% of Sweden’s land area.  Contrary to popular believe only 10% of the Sami make a living in Reindeer husbandry, and they are focused in Sami Villages.  Most Sami live modern ordinary lives.  The colonization of the Sapmi by the Swedish state began in the 12th century.  But there was relatively little interest in the North, instead concentrating east.  Beginning in the 13th century, the government looked north because of motives previously stated.

 

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Study Visits

We visited the Nordic culture museum and the Skansen museum to look at the representation of the Sami today. An interesting fact is that in the museums that we have visited there hasn’t been much information about Sami people. The Nordic museum tried to show how the Sami culture evolves with the modern culture and they are not just Reindeer herder nomads.  The Skansen museum showed only the old Sami huts and a brief poster explaining the Sami are not all reindeer herders as well.

 

 

Tyler Kamp and Vadim Velichkin