British company Beowulf has been trying for years to start mining iron ore in the ancestral territory of the indigenous Sámi people in northern Sweden. London Mining Network has supported Sámi organisations in opposing the company’s plans, which would disrupt traditional reindeer migration routes.
Beowulf is a small mining company, listed on the London Stock Exchange. For years it has been attempting to construct an iron ore mine in the region of Jokkmokk in northern Sweden, where indigeneous Sámi people herd reindeer, and against the opposition of many in the Sami community.
We attended the Beowulf AGM in June 2019, asking questions from our Sámi friends. The company CEO Kurt Budge was clearly rattled by our presence and told people that he had to watch what he said, “because she’s writing everything down”. Our question about why thecompany was pursuing this project when it seemed to be a misuse of money and resources when already 95 percent of Europe’s iron ore production comes from northern Sweden prompted follow-up questions from other shareholders.
In February 2020, the Swedish government announced that they had finally refused the company’s application for their Kallak mining project, but the struggle to ensure the company gives up trying to mine in Sámi territory continues.
Beowulf held its 2020 AGM behind closed doors on 10 September. We submitted questions to the company on behalf of Sámi colleagues. The questions are set out below. The company published its answers on its website after the AGM. It looks like nobody else asked any questions!
Sámi reindeer herder Jonas Vannar comments:
“All around the world Indigenous people are facing the same struggle: their lands are stolen, confiscated or exploited for profit.
“These lands have been cared for since time immemorial only to be depleted for for fast profit. This profit often ends up far away from the indigenous areas and with little or no gain for the indigenous communities themselves.
£This is true for indigenous groups in developing countries but also in western countries such as Sweden.
“The exploitation of Sámi land is no exception: high demand for ore, timber and electricity is putting tremendous strain on Sámi communities trying to survive with their land quickly shrinknig, land needed to sustain their ancient culture. Without grazing areas and migratory routes for the reindeer the Sámi culture and their unique way of life are severely thretened.
“Stop Beowulf Mining from exploiting Sámi land!“
The Sami have maintained an uninterrupted presence in northern Scandinavia since time immemorial. Long before northern Sweden was colonised, reindeer herders roamed the mountains and woodlands, herding their reindeer west towards the mountains in the spring and east towards the winter grazing areas in the autumn.
This way of life is still very much how the Sami live today. Reindeer herding is one of the very few indigenous livelihoods that is possible to adopt to a more modern lifestyle, using modern technology but with the same respect for nature and the environment that the Sami have managed to maintain despite extensive colonisation and exploitation of Sami land in all of northern Scandinavia.
How is it possible to construct a mine in the middle of the Sami ancient migratory routes, effectively blocking the traditional migration of the reindeer, without inflicting crucial damage to this unique way of life?
With the latest ruling of the Supreme Court in the Girjas case regarding Sami communities’ rights in mind, and also knowing that the same conditions are in place in the Kallak area, how is it possible to construct a mine in this area, effectively blocking the communities from fishing and hunting in the proposed mining area?