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Fighting to be herd: impacts of the proposed Boliden copper mine in Laver, Älvsbyn, Sweden for the Semisjaur Njarg Sami reindeer herding community

The Semisjaur Njarg Sami community is already under significant pressure from other land encroachments and industrial developments on their traditional lands. This report provides an overall picture of what a mine in nearby Laver would mean for the community’s future.

Rebecca Lawrence, Rasmus Kløcker Larsen / Published on 30 April 2019
Download  Get the report / PDF / 4 MB

Lawrence, R. and Kløcker Larsen, R. (2019). Fighting to Be Herd: Impacts of the Proposed Boliden Copper Mine in Laver, Älvsbyn, Sweden for the Semisjaur Njarg Sami Reindeer Herding Community. SEI Report, April 2019. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm.

Today, reindeer herding communities across the Arctic are facing multiple new challenges. Whereas climate change, globalization and socio-economic change comprise considerable challenges, one of the most serious concerns for reindeer husbandry today is the loss and fragmentation of reindeer pastures, due to infrastructure development, resource extraction and increasing human activity.

This report first presents a baseline study: a comprehensive description of the Semisjaur Njarg Sami community, as well as a detailed description of its land use. Following this, current and future encroachments on the community’s lands are analysed. Next, a general description is given of reindeer herding’s social and cultural importance, and specifically for Semisjaur Njarg Sami community. The first part concludes with a general review of the mining industry’s impact on reindeer herding.

The second part of the report presents an impact assessment of Boliden’s proposed mine in Laver, which demonstrates that if the mine becomes a reality, almost all of Semisjaur Njarg’s northern winter pastures will be impacted by one kind of encroachment or another. This assessment is followed by a qualitative in-depth analysis of the how the situation can develop for the Semisjaur Njarg Sami community, if the mine in Laver does or does not become a reality, and what direct and indirect impacts each of these alternatives may entail.

Boliden asserts that the impacts of the proposed mine in Laver can be mitigated by the supplementary feeding of reindeer, fencing and increased reindeer supervision. However, its own environmental impact assessment concedes that it is likely that reindeer herders would have to give up their livelihoods. Boliden’s proposed mitigation and compensation scheme is to offer reindeer herders jobs in the mine. This report sets out why reindeer herding is so important to Sami people and why the impacts of the proposed mine cannot simply be mitigated or compensated for.

The report does not include a full human rights impact assessment of the proposed mine. By law, Sami communities enjoy property rights to their traditional territories, and individual reindeer herders have a right to practice their culture without significant harm from industrial developments. However, the evidence presented in this report suggests that a mine in Laver would entail significant breaches of 1) the Sami community’s property rights, because of the mine’s planned location in the middle of the community’s winter pastures, and 2) individual reindeer herders’ right to culture, given that a number of herders would be unable to continue reindeer herding.

A full human rights impact assessment of the proposed mine in Laver would therefore be appropriate in conjunction with a further assessment of the mine’s impact on Sami rights. This would determine if a mining permit is consistent on the one hand with the international conventions that Sweden is bound by, and on the other with the human rights commitments that Boliden, and its investors, have made in their own corporate policies.


Get the report / PDF / 4 MB

SEI authors

Rasmus Kløcker Larsen

Team Leader: Rights and Equity

SEI Headquarters

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