30571686_10155666289053353_9198790556040298496_o.png

Jonas Ekblom

Swedish journalist with breaking newsroom experience and prize-awarded photography. Currently reporter at Reuters in Brussels, previously Washington D.C.

Recepient of the 2019 Overseas Press Club Scholar Award and Reuters Fellow. Top-of-class MS (Honors) graduate from Columbia Journalism School.

Previously at Swedish Public Radio (Sveriges Radio) and other outlets.

Australian mining company wants to mine rare metals over 15,000 acres in northern Sweden; activists shocked

Australian mining company wants to mine rare metals over 15,000 acres in northern Sweden; activists shocked

Originally published on 23 May in Swedish as “Australienskt företag vill leta metall i Bricka – har ansökt att få undersöka tusentals hektar”.

The hundred-year-old mineral findings around the town of Bricka continue to raise interest. We can now reveal that a large Australian mineral exploration company, Pursuit Minerals, has applied for permits to prospect thousands of acres in the area,  while local activists call for a complete moratorium on mining in the region.

That a new, bigger, company is trying its luck and applying for prospecting rights is something that surprises – and worries – Ann-Catrin Bergman, a prominent and vocal opponent of mining around Bricka.

“We are extremely surprised seeing this company’s application,” said Bergman after reading through the application material. “Especially since the permit application for Svenska Vanadin AB is still in question.”

Svenska Vanadin AB is a very minor player in metal prospecting and has for years worked to gain rights to prospect and mine vanadium-rich iron ore around Bricka, but its applications have repeatedly been denied.

Vanadium is a rare metal, today used in the making of specialty steel. Interest in the metal has increased in recent years as researchers have suggested it can play an important role in the batteries of the future.

This is the major reason the Australian company Pursuit Minerals, through its Swedish subsidiary Northern X Scandinavia AB, has applied for prospecting rights. Its reasoning appears in an inconspicuous filing to the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden, submitted several weeks ago.

The permit, if approved, would give Pursuit Minerals complete rights to prospect the bedrock of a specified area – and any potential mineral riches it might find.

Pursuit Minerals has applied to examine four large swaths of land in the region. For the area around Bricka, the filings show that it wants to dig in 15,000 acres – an area bigger than 6,000 soccer fields.

“That’s the uncanny part – this company comes in with an unprecedented scope, covering a much larger area than Svenska Vanadin AB ever did,” said Bergman.

She is also skeptical about its applying to search for minerals and metals in the same area as Svenska Vanadin AB tried to apply for.

Hans Lindberg, a consultant with Geovista AB, submitted the application to the Mining Inspectorate. While he declined to comment on the specific application he wrote on behalf of Pursuit Minerals, he explained that what it has done is “common practice.”

“Trying to find metals and minerals is like looking for a penny in a sandbox. Even if another company has prospected there before, other companies might still be interested in looking at the same area to see if the previous company missed anything,” said Lindberg.

He also said that prospecting permits often cover large areas, only to be decreased in size as prospecting progresses.

“Permits can often cover villages and towns – but this doesn’t necessarily mean that a company will come and dig up someone’s back yard,” Lindberg said.

Mining around Bricka continues to be a hot topic, and the case of a complete moratorium on mining in the area is currently being taken up by the Swedish Land and Environment Court.

Residents in Bricka and the surrounding area have been asked by the Court to submit opinions and concerns regarding the case, for which proceedings will continue in the fall. Ann-Catrin Bergman and her fellow activists will continue the fight against mining in the area.

“We’ve submitted hundreds of pages to stop the mining,” she said, and explained that her activist group recently discovered several rare salamanders in the area, which it argues is an additional reason the Court should order a moratorium on mining.

For Pursuit Minerals, the area around Bricka is part of a bigger project to prospect several large potential mines in Scandinavia for vanadium-rich iron ore to meet the expected explosion in demand for the metal. The company currently runs several large copper and zinc mining operations in Australia and could not be reached for a comment at this time.

Legendary mustard maker closing Hudiksvall factory after being bought up by Scandinavian food conglomerate

Legendary mustard maker closing Hudiksvall factory after being bought up by Scandinavian food conglomerate

Catastrophic spring flood causes major damage, Swedish national emergency response agency will provide support

Catastrophic spring flood causes major damage, Swedish national emergency response agency will provide support