Mathias Åhren, who chairs the human rights branch of the Sámi Council, thinks Sweden is violating the human rights of the people living in the Sámi villages. (Photo: Sami Council)
Sámi villages in Sweden, together with the Sámi Council, are appealing the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in order to stop the Swedish government`s extraction plans on Sámi territory.
The joint appeal to the UN Committee was sent as a reaction to the Swedish government exploitation concessions to the private entity, Nickelmountain AB, Sveriges Radio reports. The company will open a nickel mine in Rönnbäck in Tärnafjällen, in the indigenous reindeer herding district.
Violating human rights “The people living in the Sámi villages have gained property rights as they have used this land since time immemorial,” says Mathias Åhren to BarentsObserver.
Åhren chairs the human rights branch of the Sámi Council, representing the Sámi people in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia.
“By neglecting them the right to say yes or no to extraction on their territory, the Swedish state is violating their human rights,” he continues.
Åhren says the mines will destroy pasture areas within the Sámi villages traditional territory that are indispensable to the communities. In addition it will completely block migration routes that are essential for reindeer being able to migrate between different pasture areas.
“Without the pasture areas and the migration routes, the villages can no longer pursue traditional Sámi reindeer herding,”says Åhren. “There are no alternatives for the herders”.
The North-Sweden Sámi villages Laevas and Girja are also preparing their appeal to the UN Committee. If exploitation concessions are given to Avalon and Kiruna Iron companies, they will turn to the UN in order to stop mining developments in the traditional grazing areas of Rakkuri and Ruovdenjunni.
As reported by BarentsObserver the mine dispute has intensified in Arctic Sweden this year. The planned mining activity in Kallak, initiated by the company Beowulf Mining, became a symbolic battle over environmental policy with implications for the country’s resource-rich Arctic wilderness.
In August the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the Swedish state to redraft the Swedish Mineral Act for the Swedish indigenous peoples to take part in decision making concerning extractive industry on their traditional territory.
Mining more important than reindeers The area is of national interest for both valuable materials and reindeer husbandry, and these interests are considered incompatible.
The Swedish Government had to assess which of these interests would best promote a long-term use and found that the national interest for valuable materials should take precedence over the national interest for reindeer husbandry.
“The planned mining activities will give rise to significant national economic gains during the time they are conducted, and the activities will not significantly harm the nature and culture values in the area”, it says in a press release from the company Nickelmountain AB after the Swedish Government dismisses appeals against the Exploitation Concessions.
The Barents Region has some of the last largest areas of intact natural woodlands in Europe. Scientists, bureaucrats and environmentalists from all four Barents countries cooperate on preserving the forest, but an international initiative is needed.
August 9th, the Barents Region celebrated the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day was commemorated in several parts of the region, including Karasjok in Northern Norway and Teriberka in Northwestern Russia.