The mine that founded a town is now forcing it to move
The town of Kiruna, Sweden is in danger of being reclaimed by the mine that led to its creation in the first place. As miners follow the iron ore underground, it has become clear that they’ll need to soon be digging under the foundations of the town, which has prompted the bold response of relocating the entire town.
The town and mine were founded in 1900 by the mining company Luossavaara-Kirunavaara AB (LKAB) as a company town, both under the name Kiruna. Over the last 100 years, the town and mine grew together, completely intertwined as sources of income and labor. In 2004, however, LKAB, now owned by the Swedish government, announced that they needed to start mining in a path under the town itself, or else close down. Since closure of the mine would essentially end the town, the decision was made to keep the mine open and relocate Kiruna two miles east.
Rebuilding and reevaluating
This process is mostly being done with demolition of the old town and rebuilding a new town at the new location, although care is being taken to try and preserve the community and character of old Kiruna. Some key buildings, like the 100-year-old church, are actually being rebuilt, brick by brick, in new Kiruna. This does not mean that all 3000 homes and buildings are being replicated though. Aside from the impracticality of attempting to clone a small city, citizens are seizing this opportunity to rethink and hopefully improve the town. As such, public spaces are being revamped, infrastructure examined, and steps are being taken to expand the economy beyond dependency on the LKAB mine.
The move is expected to be completed by 2033. While all major expenses are being covered by LKAB, it’s obviously not a stress free experience for the citizens of Kiruna, especially since the new location isn’t guaranteed to be forever unaffected by seismic activity from the mine. But as the first cracks in the ground have become visible on the towns’s west side thanks to some small lateral movement, this relocation is clearly Kiruna’s best chance to carry on another 115 years.
Source: Instead of being swallowed by a mine, this Arctic town is moving by Matt Blitz, Smithsonian.com