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.