LKAB is already working to prepare a new environmental permit application for the entire Kiruna operation. It is not expected that the new application will be ready for submission within the coming year. A new public consultation with affected stakeholders and the public is an important part of preparation for the application.
“Unfortunately, the rejection was not entirely unexpected. We have taken this issue as far as possible in an effort to get an answer as to what is actually required during public consultations.We now know no more than we did when we submitted the previous application, which is extremely unfortunate,” says Niklas Johansson,Senior Vice President Communications and Climate, LKAB.
The ruling presents new uncertainties in the interpretation of the Environment Code which must be addressed
LKAB had entertained some hope that the Supreme Court would see the need to clarify the precedent.
“Now, unfortunately, the Land and Environment Court of Appeal ruling has set a precedent. It is very evident that this decision conflicts with the need and the political will on the part of the Government and Riksdag to make the permitting processes more efficient. Instead, it increases the uncertainty, posing a risk that the processes may be further prolonged. That we must now start all over again entails an enormous waste of resources for us and for society, resulting in no real benefit for the environment, the climate or individual stakeholders,” says Niklas Johansson.
LKAB’s previous application for an environmental permit for operations in Kiruna was rejected. The application involved an increase in the rate of iron ore production from 30 to 37 million tonnes per year. A non-unanimous Land and Environment Court of Appeal ruled in June this year that LKAB, by failing to clearly and specifically invite stakeholders who are particularly affected by mining operations to engage in dialogue, did not meet the requirement to conduct a public consultation in 2017 prior to submission of the application.
On 29 June 2018 LKAB submitted an application to the Land and Environment Court, in accordance with the Environment Code, for existing and augmented mining operations, and production of ore concentrate and pellets and other activities within the Kiirunavaara mining and processing site. The company has worked for 6 years to prepare the application, at a cost of 100 million kronor.
At the close of last year it was announced that the court had rejected LKAB’s application. LKAB appealed to the Land and Environment Court of Appeal, which approved a ruling by the Land and Environment Court early this summer, but the court was not unanimous in its ruling.
The current permit covers maximum production of 30 million tonnes of crude ore in Kiirunavaara and 14.8 million tonnes of iron ore products.
Amendment of the volume does not mean that more ore will be mined under the terms of the applicable permit, but instead refers to the rate at which it can be mined and processed by implementing efficiency improvement.This is a building block in the plan for LKAB’s very considerable climate transition, an undertaking which risks being delayed by the court’s rejection.