LKAB mines iron ore both above and below ground, in open-pit mines and underground mines. The mining operation produces several million tonnes of crude ore each year, which is converted into steel – which builds prosperity.
Every day, 365 days a year, iron ore equivalent to around six Eiffel Towers (in terms of the amount of steel) is mined in LKAB's mines. The mining takes place in the underground mines in Kiruna and Malmberget, and at the Gruvberget and Leveäniemi surface mines in Svappavaara.
How LKAB mines iron ore
Most of LKAB's ore is mined at depths of more than one kilometre in the two underground mines. The ore deposits are mostly large, solid slabs of iron ore, extending several hundreds of metres down into the ground.
Mining ore at great depths is a logistical challenge that places demands for a well-functioning infrastructure, roads, facilities, communication connections and, not least, a good working environment. LKAB's underground mines are among the most high-tech anywhere in the world. Safe and resource-efficient production, with well-developed production methods and processes, are vital for our profitability.
Ore is extracted from LKAB's underground mines by means of sub-level caving. This mining method is based on creating cavities in the orebody through drilling and blasting, and allowing the ore to fall down to underlying levels by means of gravity, from where it is transported onwards by train or loader. When the ore is removed, waste rock collapses down and automatically fills the cavity.
This causes automatic clogging, and the more ore that is mined, the more the ground above sinks. Sub-level caving is an effective mining method for steep orebodies, allowing maximum extraction from the orebody with a high degree of safety.
LKAB places great emphasis on refining every element of the underground mining process, in order to make it as efficient as possible. From the Kiruna mine alone, more than 75,000 tonnes of iron ore are mined per day, which is roughly equivalent to the volume of a 12-storey building.