Intensive work is under way to complete perhaps Sweden's biggest environmental permit application, which covers all of LKAB's mining and industrial operations in Kiruna. The application will soon be submitted to the Swedish Land and Environment Court in Umeå.
LKAB wants to increase its production in order to continue to be a sustainable, competitive iron ore producer. In Kiruna, a first, decisive step is a new environmental permit, as the current one is not fully in line with current environmental requirements.
"A permit application of this magnitude covers many areas, such as noise, energy, ground deformations, emissions to air and emissions to water. We've conducted thorough investigations in all these areas in order to identify which protective measures are needed in order to avoid any increase in the impact on the environment, even though we're increasing production. The water issue is particularly challenging. It's extremely complex and requires major efforts on our part," says Linda Bjurholt, Environmental Manager at LKAB.
The aim is that the application will be submitted before the end of June. Once the Land and Environment Court has received the application, it is sent out for consultation to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. Some supplementary demands will probably be made. After that, negotiations will take place. All in all, it may take one or two years before the court reaches a decision.
"To achieve the planned increase in production, Kiruna should have a new environmental permit in place no later than at the turn of the year 2019/2020. So it's crucially important that the environmental assessment process is efficient and clear," says Stefan Romedahl, Senior Vice President, Northern Division at LKAB.
- The overall environmental assessment for Kiruna relates to a maximum production of 37 million tonnes of crude ore in the Kiruna mine and 23 million tonnes of finished products.
- The current permit covers a maximum production of 30 million tonnes of crude ore in Kiirunavaara and 14.8 million tonnes of finished iron ore products.
- The current permit for the Kiruna mine has not been assessed in respect of the Swedish Environmental Code, which came into force in 1999, but in accordance with older environmental legislation. The processing operation in Kiruna has a more recent permit, issued in 2005 before the new KA3 and KK4 enrichment and pellet plants were to be built. In addition to this, LKAB has a number of permits for, among other things, the construction of dams and the partial draining of Lake Luossajärvi.