Boliden press photo: Autumn in Aitik

Future mining industry in Norrbotten - an engine for innovation and community

Published: 14 August 2014

The demand for metals on the world market rises, and the Swedish as well as the international mining industry increases production. Sweden and especially the northern parts of the country like Finland is one of the most promising countries in Europe for the discovery of new mineral and ore deposits; both instances of the type exploited today but also new types that we do not know much about.

Examples of forward-looking projects include Boliden's plan to open a new copper mine at Laver in the Älvsbyn municipality, a large open-pit mine of approximately the same type as Aitik in the Gällivare municipality, and LKAB's investigation of the possibility of extracting so-called rare earths from apatite which today goes to waste in the Kiruna and Malmberget iron ore mines. LKAB also plans for several new mines and Northland Resources has opened an iron mine in the Pajala municipality.

Most indications are that the mining operations will be of great importance also in the future for Sweden and especially the northern parts of the country. With a properly run management of environmental and social responsibility can the mining industry become an even more powerful engine for innovation and positive social development than it is today, and contribute to long-term sustainable growth.

Luleå University of Technology (LTU) is the center for research and education focused on mining, and the clearly stated aim is to be an internationally significant center of excellence. The research covers the entire chain from exploration through mining and processing to metallurgy and environmental issues as well as research on occupational health and safety, commodity economics and social aspects of mining and processing. As the only university in the country LTU received enhanced funding through the Government's strategic research to conduct mining-related research in 2010-2014. This enhanced funding may be permanent. The mining-related research at the university is one of the priority research areas and coordinated through the center formation CAMM (Centre of Advanced Mining and Metallurgy) with Professor Pär Weihed as director.

Framtid-Norrbotten-LTU.jpg

The project has three specializations:

  1. What ore and mineral resources are there potential for in Norrbotten, and what is likely to be exploited in the future?
  2. How will that exploitation impact the environment?
  3. How will that exploitation affect innovation and community development?

End-users of the results generated in this project are the mining companies, engineering companies, exploration companies, construction and environmental consultants as well as the authorities and the political realm who have great interest in bringing science-based answers to these questions. The results will for example illustrate: (a) how the future of the mining industry can meet ambitious environmental requirements while maintaining competitiveness; and (b) how future mining establishments can benefit the regional economy, and how these effects may be additive.

The project is a collaboration between the research topics ore geology, applied geology and economics at Luleå University of Technology. The following researchers participating in the project:

Lena Alakangas, Associate Professor in Applied Geology
Glenn Bark, Senior Lecturer in Ore geology
Magnus Ericsson, Adjunct Professor in Economics
Olof Martinsson, Senior Lecturer in Ore geology
Patrik Söderholm, Professor in Economics
Christina Wanhainen, Associate Professor in Ore geology
Pär Weihed, Professor in Ore geology
Anders Widerlund, Associate Professor in Applied Geology
Björn Öhlander, Professor in Applied Geology

Funding: The County Administrative Board of Norrbotten