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Kiruna, Sweden Relocating Because of Iron Ore Deposits

Updated on March 31, 2014

Kiruna Town Center

Kiruna town center
Kiruna town center | Source

Kiruna, Sweden

The small town of Kiruna, Sweden is in a state of flux. 18,000 residents are in the process of moving two miles east, to satisfy the demands of the state-owned mining company.

This cold town in the mountains of Sweden is hoping that this will be their only move.

Letter Demanding that Kiruna, Sweden Move Two Miles East

Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) is the mining company that initially sent Kiruna a letter in 2004, stating that it needed to "dig deeper into the hill" located near the town. Within the next ten years, giant fissures and sinkholes formed outside of Kiruna. If the drilling continued, the town of Kiruna would literally sink into oblivion.

LKAB proposed that the town move two miles east to avoid problems from their iron ore drilling. In exchange they would pay for the new town, and would pay homeowners the market value, plus an additional 25%.

Kiruna residents see the obvious writing on the wall that if they don't relocate, the town will get eaten by sinkholes.

The map (below) shows the proximity of the iron ore mine to the town.

Kiruna, Sweden Iron Ore Mine

Kiruna Sweden in proximity to the iron ore mine.
Kiruna Sweden in proximity to the iron ore mine. | Source

Kiruna Train Station

The historic train station in Kiruna, Sweden.
The historic train station in Kiruna, Sweden. | Source

The Church of Kiruna

The historic church in Kiruna, Sweden.
The historic church in Kiruna, Sweden. | Source


Architect Mikael Stenqvist says, "We want to have as much of the existing character from the old city as possible, but costs and market mechanics mean we can't move everything."

Residents & Businesses are Still Waiting to Move

Residents of Kiruna, Sweden are still somewhat skeptical. They have now been waiting 10 years for the LKAB to build them a new hospital and school at the new site of their future town.

LKAB has already paid out the equivalent of $532 million in USD in expenses to relocate, with much more reserved for the completion of the project.

Kiruna, Sweden is an town that heavily depends on the income from the iron ore, so many are willing to oblige to the move. In fact, one architect, Krister Lindstedt, says that the old city was fragmented and not well designed in terms of having a low-density to the proportion of residents. He says, "Kiruna has built a city that people don't really want."

The church of Kiruna (to the right) is a cherised building, and was even voted their "Most Beautiful Building" in 2001. Town leaders have decided to take it apart, piece by piece, and rebuild the church at a new site.

The city has already put up a sign that the railway station has been moved, with free shuttle buses in route from the station to the city center.

The biggest project that will officially start the transition is the new City Hall, which is designated as a hub, or gathering place. Business owners in the downtown area aren't ready to take a leap of faith quite yet, and have 10 years to move at their own discretion. Some business owners are taking an "all or nothing" approach, waiting for other businesses to make the first move. The official completion of the new town hall is slated for 2016.

Jobs are Available, but Homes are Scarce

However, a local construction company is enjoying the boost in work. They expect a 200% increase in business, with many new jobs for construction workers.

The problem Kiruna currently faces, is a housing shortage. They need 100 new homes built right away, and the construction manager admits it is hard attracting workers while Kiruna faces a housing shortage. He also shares the concern that the relocation project will not happen on schedule. The constructions should have actually started back in 2009 or 2010. The entire relocation process is expected to take place over the next 20 years.

Over 3,000 homes and apartments will be built at the new site of the city, plus hotels, a school, and a hospital are all to come.

Artistic Impression of the New Kiruna

Artistic impression of the new Kiruna
Artistic impression of the new Kiruna | Source

The New Kiruna

Architects and city planners have designed a low-impact city that is energy efficient, yet makes more use of space, with a more densely populated city, that requires less cars and transportation. The new Kiruna is hoping to be tourist friendly, so that people want to come and see their city.

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© 2014 zeke2100


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      sheilamyers 4 years ago

      I see how that would make a difference. I'd wonder if there would still be that difference though if the mines here were owned by the state or federal government. I've seen many examples here is the US in which the government decides they need the land (admittedly not for a safety reason) and they take over by eminent domain. They pay only rock bottom prices for the land and it's still up to the people to find new places to live or work.

    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 4 years ago

      Yes. The difference is that most U.S. companies are privately owned and in this case, the mining company is state-owned.

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      sheilamyers 4 years ago

      This is very interesting. At least the mine owners there are willing to pay for everything so the people can move even to the point of saying they'll get the construction done. US companies should learn a lesson from this. Usually all they do is pay whatever the property is worth and people and companies have to find their alternatives.