Multi-billion investments in moving Kiruna and Gällivare/Malmberget

The expansion of mining in Kiruna and Gällivare/Malmberget means that large parts of these communities must be moved. Within the next 20 years, planned expenditures related to urban transformation will total EUR 3–5 billion. The moves will involve social services buildings, such as schools, sports facilities and primary care centres, as well as commercial buildings for business and hotel operations, different types of housing, and all kinds infrastructure, like water and sewer systems, broadband, pedestrian and bicycle paths, roads and squares. We met three key persons involved in these urban transformations for an in-depth look at these gigantic projects. Together they send a clear signal to the world: “In order to develop attractive sustainable communities in Kiruna and Gällivare, we need partners and expertise in all engineering and community development disciplines – long-term partners who, like us, want to be part of building the future in northern Sweden.”


Stefan Hämäläinen, Director of Urban Transformation, LKAB


Peter Niemi, Chief Executive, Kiruna Municipality


Lennart Johansson, former Chief Executive, Gällivare Municipality

Tell us a little bit about the background of the urban transformations. Why do central Kiruna and Gällivare/Malmberget have to be moved?

Stefan Hämäläinen, LKAB: In Kiruna, LKAB’s mining is done in a homogeneous ore body that slopes at a 60-degree angle in towards the city. When we dig at deeper levels, currently at 1,365 metres, the deformation zone grows with cracks forming inward towards central Kiruna. That’s why the entire central core of Kiruna must be moved. In Gällivare/Malmberget it’s a little different. The deposit consists of several ore bodies there. The transformation is more gradual over time and has been going on for decades.

What is the schedule for the relocation of the cities – when will it begin and when will it end?

Peter Niemi, Municipal Chief Executive, Kiruna: The transformation is already underway in Kiruna. It will actually be more concentrated here compared to Gällivare/Malmberget, since all of central Kiruna must be moved. Starting in 2014, the city transformation will be more concrete and tangible for Kiruna residents. That’s when construction of our new city centre will begin, with the new city hall as the first building to be erected. The new city centre, which will be built around the square, is to be constructed near the Tullovaara district and should be completed by 2017–18. We have some intense years ahead of us. Development of the new Kiruna is expected to be completed around 2030–35.

Lennart Johansson, former Municipal Chief Executive, Gällivare: Urban transformation continues in Gällivare/Malmberget and should be fully completed by 2032. However, most of the work will be done within the next ten years. Central Gällivare itself is not affected by the mining. Consequently, new public facilities and multi-family dwellings will be integrated and built in Gällivare’s existing city centre.

City transformation involves both dismantling and development. How do you see it – what comes first?

Stefan, LKAB: There are many players involved in this process, all with a clear focus on development. That must be the first consideration. The transformation won’t happen overnight. But it’s also important to maintain the attractiveness of the cities over time and for all residents to have faith in the futures of Kiruna and Gällivare/Malmberget.

Lennart, Gällivare: Our focus is clearly on the future and development. In Gällivare, we’ve worked closely with the locals via an open public dialogue to identify how everyone who lives here sees the future. Having a development plan is a prerequisite for being able to demolish areas in a proper, respectful way.

Peter, Kiruna: In Kiruna the focus is also on development – on creating a more attractive, better city than the one we already have. Residents will experience development and demolition in parallel here, as the entire central core is to be moved over a relatively short period of time.

Can you give me a better idea of what will be demolished and moved?

Lennart, Gällivare: About 250,000 m2 will be demolished in Malmberget. This involves public institutions: a primary care centre, two nursing homes, a sports hall, a bathhouse, a secondary school, an indoor ice rink, a primary school, nurseries, the church, multi-family dwellings with 1,400 flats, and 300 single-family dwellings. Equivalent new buildings will be built and integrated near central Gällivare. There are a number of older, historical buildings in the business district that LKAB has agreed to move: labourers’ cottages, official residences and the directors’ residence

Peter, Kiruna: In Kiruna, about 500,000 m2 will be demolished. This corresponds to 800 hotel beds, 3,000 flats and a range of other facilities and properties in the city’s central core. And of course all infrastructure in the community: water, sewer, streets, parks, squares, etc. in present-day Kiruna. Everything will be rebuilt in the new Kiruna.

How big of an investment are we talking about?

Peter, Kiruna: It’s difficult to say exactly how much all this will cost. The estimates assume spending as much above ground on urban transformation as LKAB invests underground. A rough estimate for Kiruna is expenditures of about SEK 25–30 billion.

Lennart, Gällivare: In Gällivare, the investment level is estimated at around SEK 7 billion for buildings. Then there are investments in new roads, streets, parks, etc. The urban transformation should total about SEK 10 billion.

Stefan, LKAB: LKAB is investing billions over the next 20 years. LKAB has a very long-term vision of its business in this region. We’ve operated here for 120 years and we intend to remain in the area for a long time to come.

Who is paying for the urban transformations?

Stefan, LKAB: LKAB compensates the municipalities for the damage caused by mining, all in accordance with Swedish mineral legislation. Large areas have to be demolished as LKAB’s operations impact these communities. We have been involved in developing these very communities for more than a hundred years. Obviously LKAB wants to continue to be a strong player and to collaborate with other stakeholders to develop Kiruna and Gällivare.

What expertise is required in the region in order to implement the urban transformations of Kiruna and Gällivare/Malmberget?

Lennart, Gällivare: All kinds of engineering and planning skills related to community development are needed. We need building and construction skills as well as expertise in spatial planning, engineering and architecture. We also need process coordinators and legal experts on various types of contracts. There is great interest from all different types of players.

Peter, Kiruna: We need all the help we can get from the outside, including cutting edge expertise in all engineering disciplines related to community planning. We’re going to build a completely new city, so we’re also looking for knowledge and experience from the energy and environment sectors. We’ll build the new Kiruna with the latest, most modern technology – a smart and sustainable city.

What are the biggest challenges?

Stefan, LKAB: Those of us who are working with urban transformation – LKAB and local government representatives – are looking for long-term partners. That is, players who want to invest, build and then stick around and continue to manage and develop. It takes great social responsibility to move cities; it’s all about people’s lives and history.

Lennart, Gällivare: Competence management is a challenge. We also have to plan for a growing and attractive community that makes it interesting for people and businesses to invest in new homes and places of business. But it is more like an opportunity – confidence and optimism are flourishing in the region.

Peter, Kiruna: We are in the midst of a major economic boom, with Sweden’s lowest unemployment rate. Confidence and optimism is high. While we dismantle the old Kiruna, we’ll be developing a new, expansive Kiruna – an entirely new city. It’s a great challenge and a terrific opportunity.

What is the vision for the new Kiruna and Gällivare?

Peter, Kiruna: As I said before, our plans are for an even better and more attractive Kiruna in the future. A Kiruna that grows by at least 2,000 persons by 2020. The legacy of Hjalmar Lundbom’s model society, which was the foundation for the old Kiruna, is still with us. Environmental and energy issues are high on the agenda. Among other things, we’re looking at how to utilize the excess heat that LKAB generates in its processes. Energy-smart buildings and housing, including a vision of an energy self-sufficient Kiruna, are part of the vision.

Lennart, Gällivare: A summary of the citizen dialogues that we have had around the area is that Gällivare should evolve into a world-class arctic city. Our residents want a new residential development on Repisvara, a small mountain between Dundret’s recreational area and central Gällivare. They want to increase density in the city’s central core and they want homes built along the river. The signals are clear: The new Gällivare must be ecological, climate smart and energy efficient. A densely developed, sustainable small town with close access to nature.

Urban transformation affects many people who live here. What do the residents of Kiruna and Gällivare/Malmberget think?

Peter, Kiruna: There is very strong commitment to the issue. It’s really great to have that kind of support. Here in Kiruna, people are used to living with and off the mine. We are in the midst of a strong economic boom and have Sweden’s lowest unemployment rate. The positive atmosphere and energy is huge.

Lennart, Gällivare: Times are prosperous in northern Sweden and confidence is booming in the region. The people of Gällivare are positive about the developments. We’ve lived through similar periods before, the 1980s, for example. This time it feels different. The big difference now is our deep roots in the world around us and in reality – more realism quite simply. It feels like we are better equipped and prepared this time.

Stefan, LKAB: A very recent SIFO survey that we conducted among the citizens of Kiruna and Gällivare shows that 97% are in favour of the urban transformations and fully 100% say that they accept the urban transformations. Support and commitment is high in the communities.