Two United Nations human rights experts on Thursday urged the Swedish government not to issue a license for an iron ore mine in Lapland, home to the indigenous Sami people.
They argue that the mining project will produce a lot of pollution and toxic wasteand will endanger the protected ecosystem, including reindeer migration.
An open pit mine will generate large amounts of dust containing heavy metals, and the disposal of toxic waste in tailings ponds will impact the environment and water sources, they said in a statement.
There has been insufficient assessment and recognition of the environmental damage the mine will cause.
Jose Francisco Cali Tzay and David R. Boyd
The independent experts, the Guatemalan José Francisco Cali Tzay and the Canadian David R. Boyd, are special rapporteurs who work on a voluntary basis with a mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council. They do not represent the UN in an official capacity.
The two experts also assessed the impact of such a mine on the Sami people. They believe that the intense daily transport of iron concentrate by rail and road will directly affect their livelihoods and culture, as traditional reindeer migration routes would be cut off. As a result, it could “jeopardize the UNESCO World Heritage listing of the neighboring region of Laponia”, they add.
The Lapland Country is the largest region in the world (and one of the last) with an ancestral way of life based on the seasonal movement of livestock, according to UNESCO. The Sami use this area for reindeer herding, which according to Swedish law is their legal right. This activity remains the main source of income in the region.
An estimated 80,000 Sami live in the northern lands of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia.
Need to consult the Sami
In their statement, the two UN experts also underline the fact that the Sami people were not consulted on this concession.
“We are very concerned about the lack of good faith consultation and the failure to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the Sámi, as well as the significant and irreversible risks that the Gállok project poses to lands, resources, culture and livelihoods of the Sami. ,” they wrote.
On January 27, Sweden enacted a National Consultation Act, which obliges the government and state administrative authorities to consult representatives of the Sami people before taking decisions on issues that may be of particular importance to the Sami. .
Even though the law is not yet in force, experts are urging the Swedish government to consult with the Sami in order to “build future relationships in good faith with indigenous peoples at the national level”.
A decision not to approve the Gállok project can demonstrate a decisive change from past injustices.
Jose Francisco Cali Tzay and David R. Boyd
The Sami have already expressed their concerns about the mine project. They thought it would disrupt reindeer herding, as well as hunting and fishing, and destroy the land.
Swedish teenager and climate activist Greta Thunberg joined them this weekend to protest the plan.
“The days of fake neo-colonial climate ‘solutions’ are over,” Thunberg wrote on Twitter. “The Swedish government must end the colonization of the Sami and the exploitation of people and nature.”
Yesterday, me and three other activists from @FFF_Sweden joined local Sami activists for a protest in Gállok. Here, on indigenous land, a British mining company wants to build a mine. It would be a disaster for the climate and the environment. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/JQUpKdNyvh
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 6, 2022
The project proposed by the British company Beowulf Mining is located in the Gállok region in the northernmost part of the country.
Beowulf chief executive Kurt Budge said this week that “future conditions for the coexistence of mining and reindeer herding in Kallak (Gallok) are possible”, adding that lessons could be learned from the Sami locals and the many examples across Sweden where coexistence is a reality, according to Reuters.
“The company undertakes to do everything in its power to achieve this, through preventive and precautionary actions and compensation deemed necessary.”
Beowulf Mining has promised to generate 250 direct and 300 indirect jobs in a territory.
The Swedish government is expected to make a decision in March.
Related stories from around the Arctic:
Canada: Inuvialuit organization takes control of legendary reindeer herd in Canada’s Arctic, CBC News
Finland: Miners seeking metal for battery cars threaten the homeland of Finland’s Sami reindeer herdersThe Independent Barents Observer
Lapland: The Arctic Railway – Building a Future or Destroying a Culture?Looking at the Arctic
Norway: Significant metal find in key land for reindeer herding in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Reindeer found dead for second year in a row on river in Russian Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Land use rights at the heart of this year’s Sami parliamentary elections in Sweden, Radio Sweden
United States: Conservation groups sue government over Alaska mining routeThe Associated Press