Accepted paper:

Kiruna for whom? Citizen participation and contestation through urban planning in the mining-based displacement of the city of Kiruna, Sweden


Elisa Lopez (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how citizens of Kiruna, Sweden, “participate” (and express agency and dissent) through the urban planning process of “New Kiruna”, a project of forced displacement and relocation caused by ground damage from ongoing mining activity by the state-owned iron mining company, LKAB.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the ways in which the citizens in the city of Kiruna, Sweden have sought to influence the forced relocation and reconstruction of their city due to growing damage from continuing underground mining activity by the Swedish state-owned iron mining company, LKAB. This process of displacement, which includes over 3,000 households, two major highways, the national railroad, and the majority of city infrastructure and services, has overwhelmingly been represented by both the company and the municipality as an opportunity for a "better" city. What constitutes a "better city", however, is a contested idea in Kiruna, touching upon deeply-entrenched power relations between the citizenry and LKAB as the town's largest employer and the Swedish state's conspicuous conflict of interest - as protector and negotiator of equity on behalf of citizens on the one hand, and as the owner of the mining company advocating the move on the other. Using empirical material from ongoing fieldwork with city planners, architects, and LKAB project leaders as well as affected business owners, renters, and other land-users in and around Kiruna (including the indigenous people of the area, the Sami), I trace the ways in which unequal power relations between the mining company, local community, and the state are being reproduced in the urban planning of the new city, and how stakeholders challenge and express their lack of agency through the physical design and construction of "New Kiruna", the only aspect of this relocation in which citizen's participatory input has been sought.

panel IP01
Forced collaborations: collective responsibility and unequal sacrifice in a Europe in crisis