Greta Thunberg condemns ‘racist’ decision to let UK firm mine on Sami land
Environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg denounced as ‘racist’ and ‘colonial’ the decision by the Swedish government on Tuesday to allow a British company to dig an open-cast iron ore mine on land belonging to the indigenous Sami people.
Beowulf Mining, headquartered in London, has fought for nearly a decade to win approval for the mine, but has consistently faced stiff opposition from Sami and environmentalists.
The Gállok site, 30 miles from the town of Jokkmokk in Swedish Sápmi, commonly known as Lappland, has become a symbol of the tension between business and government on one hand, and the protected status of Sami culture.
Announcing the decision on Tuesday, the business minister, Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, said the mine was in the public interest.
He stressed that permission came with a number of ‘far-reaching conditions’ to minimise the impact on reindeer husbandry, compliance with which was essential. These include commitments to arrange transport for migrating animals, compensate reindeer herders and restore the land after exploitation.
But critics of the mine responded furiously. ‘Sweden today confirmed its shortsighted, racist, colonial and nature-hostile approach,’ Thunberg, 19, who is Swedish, posted on Twitter.
‘Sweden pretends to be a leader for environment and human rights, but at home they violate indigenous rights and continue waging a war on nature. The world will remember this.’
Amnesty International Sweden said it ‘deeply regretted’ the decision, noting concerted opposition to the mine from the Sami parliament, UN experts, Unesco, the Church of Sweden, the Swedish environmental protection agency, Sweden’s national heritage board and others.
Märta Stenevi, spokesperson for Sweden’s Green party, said on Twitter that the decision to give the go-ahead for the Gállok mine was a ‘tragedy for Sami rights, nature and future generations … Short-term economic gain is now put before Sami rights, animals and nature. Incredible.’
Beowulf’s share price had been on a sharp upward trajectory since December when the Swedish Greens, who have opposed the plans, left the governing coalition. Thorwaldsson declared that his party ‘loved mines’ and hoped to open more.
However, the share price fell sharply following claims by a Swedish newspaper earlier this month that Beowulf lacked the necessary funds to develop the mine and had links to an offshore tax haven. The company strongly denied the claims, while its chairman dismissed them as biased.
Welcoming the government’s decision, the Beowulf chief executive, Kurt Budge, said in a statement- ‘Beowulf’s ambition is to build the most sustainable mine possible. … the company remains committed to working constructively – and in good faith – with all stakeholders and engaging in meaningful dialogue.’
The Sami parliament, the representative body for people of indigenous heritage in Sweden, says the mine will destroy grazing areas and cut off the only viable migratory route for reindeer followed by the Jåhkågasska Sami community, who move westerly with their animals to the high hills of the Laponian area on the Norwegian border for the animals to calve during the spring.
However, the promise of hundreds of new jobs created by the mine has divided the local community in Jokkmokk, who fear economic decline and a continuing exodus of people from the area.
(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.theguardian.com feed.)
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