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Indigenous Land Threatened By Mine

Sami Traditional Lands Under Attack From Resource Companies

Saami reindeer herds. Courtesty of intercontinentalcry.org
Saami reindeer herds. Courtesty of intercontinentalcry.org

The Sami people, also spelled Sámi or Saami, also known as Lapplanders, are indigenous people whose traditional land includes large parts of far northern Scandinavia and Russia. The Sámi are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Sami ancestral lands span an area of approximately 388,350 square kilometers. The Sami are nomadic by tradition, and largely live by traditional means like fishing, fur-trapping, and sheep herding, and they are widely known for reingdeer herding, though only around 10% of the Sami work in reindeer herding.

The Swedish government has given a British company called Beowulf Mining permission to begin test-blasting with intent to build an iron ore mine in an area that plays a key role in Sami Reindeer herding, and the government has sent police to protect mining equipment from the locals. contrary to the UN Convention On The Rights Of Indigenous People. 

They have done this despite the fact that Beowolf mining has repeatedly broken the law in the past and claimed to have consulted with the Sami after discontinuing contact almost entirely in 2011, when they were caught drilling in an area after their permits had expired and hadn't been renewed. 

At a major Sami protest in Jokmokk, Sweden, where Sami activists blocking a major road in an area near the proposed mine, an activist doused himself in gasoline and threatened to light himself on fire, he was taken to a doctor and around 50 others were arrested.

Protests were also held at Beowolf's Shareholder's meeting, and the Sami positions were outlined in a press release around that event on July 4th, 2013 from the Sami Council: 

Press Release July 4th, 2013 

Today the Saami communites of Sirges and Jåhkågasska attend Beowulf Plc AGM in London in order to reiterate that they do not accept the company’s exploration and mining activities in Gállok (Kallak), in Jokkmokk, Sweden; an area of great importance for both the Sami communities’ reindeer herding (see below for AGM Statement).

Reindeer husbandry plays a central role in the Sami way of life and is a prerequisite for Sami communities’ and their members’ spiritual and cultural identity. Reindeer herding has been undertaken in Sweden since time immemorial. Today the Sami way of life is under tremendous pressure from land exploitation in the Sami homelands.

- Beowulf Mining’s planned mine and associated infrastructure threatens to devastate the conditions for reindeer herding in the area, says Jonas Vannar, Sirges  Saami community.
- This project endangers our entire existence and we will notify Beowulf’s shareholders of this, continues Vannar.
- In view of the importance of this issue for the affected Saami communities, the company’s arrogant attitude is a particularly distressing. We currently have absolutely no confidence in this company, concludes Vannar.

Any mine in Gállok would also constitute a breach against Sirges and Jåhkågasskas members’ human rights. By way of their traditional land use, the Saami communities have earned property rights to the area that gives them the right to say no to mining operations. In light of the mine’s huge negative impact on the communities, the project would also violate a number of other human rights, such as the right to culture and to health. The Swedish government has an obligation to ensure that each developer operating in reindeer herding areas respects these rights.

- It’s better for the company to abandon this project immediately in order to avoid additional costs and stress among the reindeer herders, says Mattias Åhrén, Head Lawyer, Human Rights Unit, Saami Council. We will assist the Saami communities to raise this case at the international level, unless the mining plans are scrapped, Åhrén concludes.

For further information, please contact:

Jonas Vannar:  +46703986587                      Nilla Märak: +46730543326

Statement from Saami Communities Sirges and Jåhkågasska at Beowulf Annual General Meeting, London

July 4th, 2013

Question 1.

Reindeer herding is integral to the Saami peoples’ cultural and spiritual identity. It has been practiced by Saami people since time immemorial, but the Saami way of life is currently under enormous pressure from extractive industrial activities in Saami areas. Beowulf’s planned mining operations in the Kallak area would threaten the grazing lands of tens of thousands of reindeer. Given the devastating impacts Beowulf Mining’s proposed mining activities would have on our Saami communities of Sirges and Jåhkågasska, we will never consent to the projects. Rather, we will do everything possible to protect our lands and livelihoods for future generations. The profits Beowulf is planning to make will be short-term only, but the devastation for the Saami people and their environment will be permanent.

 HOW DOES YOUR COMPANY PLAN TO ADDRESS THE ENOURMOUS IMPACTS THAT YOUR MINING OPERATIONS WILL HAVE ON RENDER REINDEER HERDING AND SAAMI COMMUNITIES?

Question 2.

The Kallak project faces many problems given its remote location. The road is in very poor condition and it is at least 40 kilometers to the nearest railway. Extending the railway to the mine site would cost several hundred million pounds, not to mention that this is a complicated and drawn-out planning process in Sweden.

 The Kallak project also faces problems as it threatens the cultural integrity of the Laponia Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, because Saami reindeer herding is critical to Laponia’s cultural values. In such case, the World Heritage Committee may delist Laponia as a World Heritage Site, and this is something the Swedish state does not want to see happen.

HOW DOES YOUR COMPANY PLAN TO ADDRESS THESE MAJOR PROBLEMS?

Question 3.

Beowulf has recently abandoned its planned mining in Ruovdevarre because of the lack of necessary infrastructure and the area’s importance for the local community and other land-uses.

HOW IS THE KALLAK PROJECT DIFFERENT FROM THE RUOVDEVARRE PROJECT? DON’T THEY FACE THE VERY SAME PROBLEMS?

Question 4.

Beowulf has repeatedly broken the Swedish Mining Act. Exploration work plans have been ‘lost’, terrain driving restrictions have been ignored and the environmental act doesn’t seem to mean anything to your company. Beowulf has applied for a mining concession but the EIA report, reindeer herding analysis report and transport report are so far from complete that all affected parties have rejected the reports.

HOW DOES BEOWULF INTEND TO EXPLAIN THIS KIND OF IRRESPONSIBLE CORPORATE BEHAVIOUR TO ITS SHAREHOLDERS?

http://saamiresources.org/page/2/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/swedish-police-scuffle-with-activists-protesting-mining-plans-on-indigenous-sami-land/2013/08/21/9b0fb710-0a62-11e3-89fe-abb4a5067014_story.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sami_people

http://saamiresources.org/2011/12/15/british-beowulf-caught-drilling-illegally/

http://whc.unesco.org/archive/websites/arctic2008/finland.html


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