Swedish Extreme North

Posted on March 15, 2016 in Ethnography, Nordics

The Swedish province (landskap) of Lappland is a miniature Sweden in itself. Sweden is one of the two experimental platforms of Britain and Europe (the second is Russia). Lappland is one of the two experimental platforms of Sweden (the second is Iceland).

There is one employer (LKAB, the state-owned mining company). There is only one alcohol store (a branch of Systembolaget, the state-owned monopoly, in Kiruna). Everybody votes for the same political party (social democrats).

In Lappland, one can test-drive both technological and social novelties. A great deal of the ore trucks and drills are either robotic or remote-controlled, and each worker wears a location beacon (LKAB’s «smart mine» concept). Ericsson puts their new cell phone base stations in the mineshafts to see how they would function in a subway.

LKAB’s promotional videos mostly show women workers but predictably lament that only 20% of workers are actually women. The toilets in the mine workers’ «house of the people» (folkets hus, an establishment similar to a Soviet «workers’ house of culture») are unisex, of course. The local branch of the Swedish immigration agency (Migrationsverket) has a lot of work with the newcomers being resettled in the North.

The town of Kiruna is slowly sinking due to a ground deformation after a century of mining. The locals are happy about being part in the largest community relocation effort that has ever been undertaken so far.