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Sustainable Communities and the Legacies of Mining in the Nordic Arctic

About the Project

This project explores the legacies of mining in Arctic mining communities in the Nordic countries. The project is focused on field research and is linked to the Mistra Sustainable Development program (see project description elsewhere on this website). The point of departure for the project is the interest and importance of mining to communities in the Arctic. The promise of improved incomes, employment opportunities, and living standards is balanced against concerns related to social and ecological disruption. Such debates are centrally concerned with legacies: what effects will mining have on societies and local environments, and what effects will persist even after the end of operations?

This project examines three communities in which mining was (and in some cases still is) the dominant industry - Kiruna in Sweden, Qullissat in Greenland, and Pyramiden and Longyearbyen in Svalbard - to better understand the social and cultural as well as the economic and environmental legacies of mining in Arctic regions of Norden. By providing new insights into how Arctic communities interpret and use the material and immaterial heritage of mining, the study will contribute to current debates within research and policy on how to achieve sustainable resource utilization and economic development in the Arctic. The project will thus provide an important contribution to understanding how communities can remain economically and socially sustainable at the local level, and a counterweight to macro-level considerations of how mining revenues will affect national-level economies. The project will bring together researchers, local and indigenous populations, state and municipal institutions, and mining actors from across the Nordic countries and abroad. Using approaches from archeology, anthropology, history, and human geography, the research team will chart the cultural, social, and economic relations within Arctic communities founded on mining - both abandoned and living - with the ultimate goal of exploring why some communities have proven sustainable while others have not. A workshop at the end of the fieldwork phase of the project will help guide the preparation of empirical research reports while providing the foundation for an enduring research network. Equally importantly, the project will provide empirical data and research findings with direct relevance for local actors, in terms of both detailed studies from specific sites and comparative studies that facilitate the transfer and consideration of insights across different areas of the European Arctic. 

Funding agency: Nordregio 

Duration: 2014-2017