Kiruna, the sinking city

When I first considered Kiruna as a winter destination, I wasn’t aware that the town was scheduled to be translocated a few kilometers East because it was sinking into a hole left by iron ore mining ! I didn’t even know there was a mine in Kiruna…. before reading it in our travelling guide :-)

Since mining is one of Kiruna’s most important industries, and because of this unique situation (and also because we didn’t know anything about mining), we decided to book a tour and visit this very intriguing place to learn a bit more about this translocation ! All the tours are organized by the mining company and departures are scheduled at 3 pm in front of the tourism office.

LKAB, the world’s largest underground iron ore mine

Kiruna is home to the world’s largest underground iron ore mine, LKAB, a leader in supplying iron ore pellets to the steel industry in Europe (the mine accounts for 90 percent of the total iron ore production !!).

Iron is the fourth most common element on earth, iron-rich rocks (iron ores) are common worldwide and iron can be extracted from them. In most places, ore is extracted in opencast mines but not in Kiruna. The ore body in Kiruna is four kilometers long and 80 meters wide and stretches for at least two kilometers in the ground.

Since it has been founded, the LKAB mine has been growing every year as a world without steel is unimaginable…. For the moment, they mine at 1 km deep (as you can see in the second picture) but they plan to mine until at least 2030 because they don’t know the extent of the ore body…

But, why is the city sinking ?

To be able to extract iron ores from or the ore body, they have to dig deeper and deeper with an angle of 60° towards the city. All the vibrations resulting from the explosions are leading to fissures and cracks that are starting to appear in the ground. The more they dig, the more vibrations they create. The red line on the picture above, with the 3D map of the town, represents the zone where damages can already been visible. They are now very close to central Kiruna. 

As a result, either the mine must stop digging (and cause unemployment) or the city has to move.. they chose the second option !

A new town is currently being under construction, 3km to the East of the actual town. They will dismantled some important buildings piece by piece and put them back in the new town.

There was a little museum inside the mine, and we spent some time over there looking at old mining equipments. That was very informative !

I haven’t realized this mine was so developed and so famous. It was a huge surprised when we went down in the mine and I would recommend a visit if you have the chance to go to Kiruna ! It was very interesting, we learned a lot ! :-)   I would love to go back in a few year sand see the changes and visit the new town.

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34 responses to “Kiruna, the sinking city

  1. Pingback: Exploring Kiruna, in the heart of Swedish Lapland | Darwin on the rocks and around the world·

  2. Pingback: A moose safari in the heart of Swedish Lapland | Darwin on the rocks and around the world·

  3. How fascinating Gin – I don’t think I’ve heard of moving an entire city before! I hope they don’t have to keep on doing moving people in the future it must be so disruptive. The little museum looks very interesting from your photos – thanks for sharing them and have a lovely weekend :)

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    • No, the iron ore core is really located in a specific spot, so they won’t need to move the city further back. The museum contained all objects from the past and it was very nice to look at them ! Have a nice weekend as well ! :-)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my!! This is very interesting!! I never heard of this mine before… but it certainly is worth the visit!! How crazy that they are moving the city, but also a great idea haha :D
    I would love to visit it… though I am a little afraid of going that deep!!

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    • All the locals have been stressed for years and years about the sinking of the city. They didn’t want to make huge transformation in their houses or to invest in them, since the future was very uncertain. I think it’s good they finally decided to move the town, they will able to improve their lodging the way they like.

      Thanks, have a nice day as well :-) It’s swowing here, I hope it won’t last long, I want to be able to drive back home :D

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  5. Interesting story. There is a sort of parallel in the U.S. with the disposal of waste water from hydraulic fracturing. The injection of the water into deep disposal wells is apparently linked to a major increase in small earthquakes in a number of states including Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Ohio.

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    • It is very intriguing. We had a very lengthy explanation about it, and I have to admit that I don’t recall all the details. But with each explosion, some vibrations are sent to the ground to finally reach the surface, and the deeper they mine, the further away the vibrations are travelling to reach the surface, because of the 66° angle.

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  6. It should be part of every student’s education to understand where and how the products we consider indispensable come from. What the effect on the earth is. In fact many students now study their environment and ecology. It is not just the plants and animals around us, but our entire world. Because Kiruna is in an unpopulated area, moving the town is possible. Look at all the underground (and above ground) mining around the world and their environmental effects. Humans have historically considered only the short-range monetary benefits and ignored possible long-term issues. Sorry to get so carried away – I studied some of these things in college, over 40 years ago. None of this is new, but the information is circulating around the world much better nw, due to the internet. Hurray for progress! :-)

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    • I agree completely! We are not always aware of the detrimental effects of “industrialization” when it’s not clearly visible like cutting down a forest, and killing hundreds of animals,… There are some invisible changes that are as detrimental… like emission of gazes, pollution of rivers, and this !

      That’s what I like about internet. Some people think the world is too connected, but I think it’s not bad.

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  7. I had to check out Google to see where Kiruna was! Sweden! Interesting. In our part of the world the shale gas industry is quite common. In a way which is not entirely unlike that which is happening in Kiruna (to mine iron ore), the gas industry sends fluids, under very high pressure, to open fissures in the bedrock to allow for the flow of natural gas to the surface (you may have heard of this, it is called hydraulic fracturing). Many folks worry that this practice will influence the stability of the overlying rock layers. Perhaps Kiruna provides a good example of why one should not mine so close to the surface!

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  8. Hello Gin,
    This is so interesting! I am glad you enjoyed your visit here and I agree – it would be fun to visit again in a few years to see the town in it’s new location :)
    Wish you a great day,
    Takami

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