Mining

An Entire Swedish Town Is Moving Because the Ground Is Caving In

Cracks are reaching up toward the arctic mining town's center, caused by the continued expansion of excavation.
21 April 2020, 5:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE News.

KIRUNA, Sweden – Sweden’s northernmost town got built up around the world's largest underground iron ore mine -- which now threatens to destroy it.

From more than 100 years of excavating, ever deeper and wider, cracks are reaching up toward the town center. That’s why the state-run company that controls the mine, LKAB, is tearing down parts of the town, and moving a third of it two miles to the east.

Seven 100-year-old houses, for instance, are being uprooted, lifted, and transported on the back of wheeled platforms. As one of the homes made its way down the road, Peter Johnasson, the man in charge of the move, told VICE News: “It’s a big day for every citizen in Kiruna because we are moving a part of history.”

But other homes will simply be demolished. Like the building where retiree Inga-Lill Lundström and her neighbors live. LKAB is paying them the market value of their apartments, plus an additional 25 percent to sweeten the deal, but she worries this won’t be enough to buy another apartment in the new city center, meaning she'll have to rent instead.

"LKAB even told us it was non-negotiable. It was incredibly rude," she said.

Deputy Mayor Gunnar Selberg recognizes there's some "unease" about the move but he calls it a great opportunity, saying LKAB is like a “mother” to Kiruna, the reason the town exists at all.

The completion of the move is still a long way off. LKAB says it will take until at least 2035, and they aren’t ruling out the possibility of moving further away if the geological calculations call for it. It's unlikely, Selberg says, "but you can never be 100% certain.”