LKAB's plan is to reopen the Mertainen mine, outside of Svappavaara, to produce more iron ore. The intention is to resume mine operation in the autumn and build up a stock of crude ore.
"We are doing this to create a crude-ore buffer for our pelletizing plants in Kiruna and Svappavaara," says Niclas Svanelöv, section manager for mining in Svappavaara.
The Mertainen mine was mothballed in 2016 in response to a change in the market situation, the idea being to keep the mine in a state of preparedness to meet future needs. Now, the market has changed, resulting in increased demand for crude ore in LKAB's iron ore business area, a consequence, not least, of the seismic event which occurred in the Kiruna mine in May 2020 and continues to hold back production.
"We plan to start mining in the autumn and run the mine for about six months. Then, we will have built up a stockpile of crude ore that will serve as a buffer for supplying our pelletizing plants. To produce a million tonnes of crude ore, we will have to mine 1.5 million tonnes of ore and about an equivalent amount of waste rock." explains Niclas Svanelöv.
Planning for the start of mine production is under way and involves, among other tasks, securing mineral resources. The mine will be operated with LKAB's own personnel and contractors. In all, this will mean about 50 jobs in Mertainen. Mining permits are already in place, though further preparations have to be made for stockpiling. No major transports on Highway E10 have as yet been planned. Mine blasting will have no impact on traffic on the E10, something which is only expected to occur if mining is prolonged and the production area approaches the highway.
The decision to prepare Mertainen for mining was taken in 2010, when the prices of coarse iron ore fines were high. After a drawn-out permitting process the market had changed, such that LKAB saw no profitability in a production start-up. By then, the area had already been prepared, with construction of roads, stripping of overburden, waste rock dumps and permanent equipment for crushing and dressing. These facilities can now be activated for a resumption of mining.