Kolari-Pajala iron-ore to be shipped from Narvik

The iron-ore from the up-coming large mines in the Swedish-Finnish borderland will be transported to the Northern Norwegian harbor of Narvik.

Train transport of ore
Railway transport of iron-ore from Northern Sweden to Narvik in Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The mining company Northland says production is forecasted to start in 2012, first at the Kaunisvaara mines near Pajala in Sweden, then at Hannukainen near Kolari on the Finnish side of the border.

Since Northland started with the feasibility studies of the new iron-ore projects, the question has been in which way and which direction to transport the iron-ore to the markets.

The options are by train to the Finnish harbor city of Kemi, to new harbor facilities on the Swedish side of the border near Kalix, or to drive the ore with the help of huge ore trucks northbound to Svappavaara where iron-ore from already existing mining company LKAB are transported by rail to the Norwegian deepwater harbor in Narvik.

According to the Swedish newspaper Norrlänska Socialdemokraten the Narvik alternative is the most inexpensive. The newspaper quotes a study made by the mining company Northland itself.

The local harbor authorities in Narvik say a new iron-ore harbor can be built vis-à-vis the existing LKAB iron-ore harbor in the town, according to the local newspaper Fremover.

Helsingin Sanomat reports this week that the mining company Northland has decided to ship both the ore from the mines on the Finnish side, as well as the ore from the Swedish mines to the markets in China via the port of Narvik, a year-around ice-free port. Also, the Narvik harbor can take bulk carriers at the size of 300,000 dwt, while the port alternative near Kemi in Finland can be accessed by vessels no larger than 55,000 dwt.

Sydvaranger iron-ore harbor in Kirkenes.
Iron-ore bulk carrier ready to sail to the world markets. Photo Thomas Nilsen

But, to get the ore from the processing plant near Pajala to Narvik is a difficult operation. First, the iron-ore concentrate will be taken to the railway in Svappavaara.

According to the new plan, a number of special oversized 170-tons Caterpillar iron ore trucks will run from Pajala to Svappavaara at intervals of 10 minutes.  Norrlänska Socialdemokraten reports that the company has asked the Swedish road authorities about exemption from current weight-restrictions to be allowed to drive the enormous trucks on roads together with ordinary traffic.

One of the huge tracks transporting the iron-ore from the mine.
Large-scale iron-ore truck. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

When the mining starts in 2013, the plan is to ship the first ore concentrate out to the market the year after, in 2013.

Read alsoSwedish Iron miner LKAB may open three new mines

The plan is to ship five million tons of iron ore concentrate to the markets annually. That is more than the Sydvaranger Mining Company in Kirkenes; Northern Norway is shipping out to its customers annually. It is also more than the Russian iron-ore company in Kostomuksha (Karelia) is transporting by train over to the Finnish Rautariikki melting plant annually. But, it is just half of what Swedish LKAB in Kiruna is producing every year.

Read also: Bulk from Kirkenes to China via the Arctic

If the iron-ore transportation route finally ends up by using trucks from the enrichment plant at Kaunisvaara near Pajala to the railroad in Svappavaara and from there to Narvik, other railroad developments in the area are likely to be put on ice. Such plans include rail line from Kolari to Skibotn in Norway, cross-border lines from Kolari to Pajala and wherefrom to be connected to the Swedish railway system or improvements of existing lines on the Finnish side.

-  All large-scale track improvement plans have now been suspended. The electrification of the railway track would have cost approximately EUR 50 million”, says Director Kari Ruohonen from the Finnish Transport Agency, interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat. Those plans included the existing railroad from Kemi to Kolari.