In Sapmi, the traditional territory of the Saami Peoples, a group of indigenous and non-indigenous activists have joined together to stop the UK-based mining company, Beowulf, from carrying out another drilling program in Kallak (Saami: Gállok), an area of great spiritual and cultural importance to the Saami Peoples.
Since 2006, Beowulf, through its Swedish counterpart Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB (JIMAB–formerly known as Beowulf Mining AB), has been pushing its controversial Kallak mining project forward, ignoring the Saami Peoples rights in addition to Swedish legislation and international conventions regarding the right to consultation and free, prior, and informed consent.
The Saami began speaking out against Beowulf’s mining plans after the company carried out its first drilling program in 2010. With the company breaching its own ethical guidelines, the National Saami Association stated, “In contrast to what Beowulf has reported to its shareholders, the company has not shown any willingness to cooperate with Saami communities, as required by international conventions. This is demonstrated by the company’s refusal to assist the communities’ participation in impact assessments, which are necessary to obtain knowledge of how the proposed mining would impact upon the Saami communities and their land uses.”
The Saami went on to explain that the company’s proposed mine could devastate the reindeer’s grazing lands, severely impacting the their traditional grazing practices, which are an integral part of their cultural and spiritual identity. The potential impact would be compounded by a large increase in traffic to and from the mine.
Two years later, the company has shown no signs of changing its ways, having continued to disregard the Saami and their rights–a point that was illustrated by the Saami communities of Sirges and Jåhkågasska at Beowulf’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London on July 4th, 2013.
During the AGM, the two communities reiterated their opposition to the mine, stating unequivocally, that, “Given the devastating impacts Beowulf Mining’s proposed mining activities would have on our Saami communities of Sirges and Jåhkågasska, we will never consent to the projects. Rather, we will do everything possible to protect our lands and livelihoods for future generations. The profits Beowulf is planning to make will be short-term only, but the devastation for the Saami people and their environment will be permanent.”
The two communities also pointed out that, “Beowulf has repeatedly broken the Swedish Mining Act. Exploration work plans have been ‘lost’, terrain driving restrictions have been ignored and the environmental act doesn’t seem to mean anything to your company. Beowulf has applied for a mining concession but the EIA report, reindeer herding analysis report and transport report are so far from complete that all affected parties have rejected the reports.”
According to Kamp Kallak, “the Swedish Mining Inspectorate [just] issued their final warning to the company for its disregard of the legislation regarding mineral extraction in Sweden.”
On July 30, 2013, five days after the warning was issued, Kamp Kallak continues, “The police arrived to dismantle the blockade set up by demonstrators, at the request of JIMAB, as it hindered their access to the area. Six demonstrators were arrested. They were bussed to the nearby city of Gällivare where they were questioned and later freed.”
Adding insult to injury, while the police were making the arrests, an officer threw down a Saami flag and stepped on it.
Commenting on the photo, Saami musician and traditionalist, Anja Storelvnese, aid “…someone might as well spit in my face”. She sees an indigenous fight for what they believe as being on the horizon. “A fight to keep herding (reindeer). To keep the Saami people from being walked on.”
With the blockade down and the demonstrators removed, JIMAB immediately began their test drilling, quickly refilling the holes before they left. The following day, July 31, the demonstrators returned to the site and set up the blockade a second time.
“The goal is to continue making things difficult for the mining company to start blasting at the site,” says Kamp Kallak. “We want to stop the mining project and protect this area. But what is happening here is also part of a global phenomenon, and it’s time to stop the exploiters and colonizers.”
The protest camp has since issued a request for solidarity, asking “Are they ready to blow people up to get their ore? We don’t know but we are ready to die to stop them. Solidarity actions, new warriors, prayers, and whatever you can imagine to help is welcome. For everything wild and free!”
Resources (compiled by Santa Cruz Indigenous Solidarity)
Main website/blog for the camp (in Swedish):
Kamp i Kolonierna “Struggle in the Colonies”
Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook page for Kamp Kallak: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kamp-Kallak-Gállok/147057268825036
Hashtags: #Kallak #gállok / Twitter: @kolonierna
Background on Saami opposition to mining:
11/30/11- Sweden: Saami Communities Are Standing Up To British, Australian Mining Companies:
10/6/11-Sweden: Saami communities say NO to mining on traditional lands:
Feature-length Film- Last Yoik in Sami Forests:
Some news articles etc: (English)
7/30/13— Ongoing road bloackade against Mining in Sweden:
7/31/13— The Gállok Struggle:
7/24— Jokkmokk and the Beowulf blockade
Swedish language news articles:
8/1/13— Mine Resistance in Kallak continues
7/31/13— Anti-mining Protests Continue:
7/29/13— Police arrest mining activists at blockade in Kallak
7/25/13— Strategic mining protest in Kallak
7/24/13— Sami: No to the test pit in winter
7/18/13— Video: Barricades growing in Kallak
7/16/13— New protests in Kallak (w/ video)
Norwegian language articles:
8/2/13- Benefiting parallels to the struggle for Alta:
(article comparing the Kallak battle to Alta Dam struggle)
7/31/13- The activists are back in Kallak:
7/30/13- Police Action against mining demonstration in Sweden
7/30/13- Police stepped on the Sami flag
7/30/13- Many respond to the treatment of demonstrators
Article about how similar anti-mining action groups are already being established in Norway: