Swedish miner begins massive relocation of whole city

Image of Kiruna taken in 2006 Johan Arvelius | Wikimedia Commons.

The entire Swedish city of Kiruna has begun a long-planned and quite challenging relocation to an area situated about 3km (2miles) east, after ground fissures created by iron ore mining activity weakened the ground beneath it.

The decision, however, didn’t take any local by surprise. In fact, mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) has planned moving the nearly 18,000 residents of Kiruna and most of the city’s buildings since 2004.

Swedish miner begins massive relocation of whole city

Map based on Google maps.

Over the next two decades, about 3,000 apartments and houses, several hotels, and 2.2 million square feet of office, school and health-care space will relocate east.

While some residents of what is Sweden’s most northern town have moved already, the first of the town’s historic buildings was hoisted up on a truck Wednesday and transported to its new location, Radio Sweden reported.

State-owned LKAB, which is Kiruna’s largest employer, has been digging deeper for ore in the area, which has increased the risk of Kiruna suddenly sinking into a hole.

The company had alerted authorities that mining more iron ore would mean further excavation, which —in turn— would destabilize the city’s centre. But instead of closing the mine, the municipality decided to relocate the town.

Kiruna is not the only place LKAB is having to spend money in relocating people away from a mine. The town’s closest neighbour, Malmberget, is also undergoing a similar operation.

Unlike Kiruna, which is being moved to a place of its own, the town of Malmberget and its community will be assimilated into another city entirely — Gällivare — located around 5 km south.

LKAB is paying for a large proportion of both moves, though it has said it is impossible to accurately ascertain the total costs.

Here’s how the relocation is going so far: