MAC: Mines and Communities

Swedish Saami take on Canadian miner

Published by MAC on 2009-09-14

Scandinavian Saami (Indigenous Peoples) organisations claim that a proposed mining project in North eastern Sweden will threaten their traditional way of life.

The project, they say, would also violate their human rights, as recognised by the United Nations.

Canadian Mine Threatens Traditional Reindeer Herders

Saami Council

10 September 2009

On 31 August 2009, Blackstone Ventures Inc., a Vancouver-based mining company, announced plans to begin test-drilling for minerals on pasture lands considered invaluable to the Saami people. In a press release, circulated in Canada the same date, Blackstone further announced its plans to mine in the disputed area.

The Sammi ccommunities have not agreed to such test-drillings. Furthermore, Saami community members do not recognize the company's right to drill, noting that the company does not hold the relevant permits to drill and lacks a work-plan approved by the reindeer herders.

"This is the heart of our land," says Marja Skum, a spokesperson for the communities. "This is where the reindeer come to calf, and where they find the richest pasture. Our forefathers have lived with the reindeers on these mountains since time immemorial. We are determined to pass the legacy on to the next generations. Therefore, we have no choice but to do everything we can to stop this mine. If a mine is established in the planned area, we will no longer be traditional reindeer herders. We will lose the most vital part of our identity."

Saami organizations are making it a priority to assist the impacted communities and representative say they will fight the project. Anders Blom is the Director of the Swedish Saami Association (SSR), an umbrella organization with Saami reindeer herding communities and Saami associations in Sweden as members.

"As a nomadic people, reindeer herders roam their reindeer over vast areas," says Blom. Some of these areas are interchangeable. But Blackstone has picked the absolute worst place to prospect. The planned mine is in an area that the communities can simply not replace. That is why we will assist the communities to the best of our ability to stop this project."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has repeatedly affirmed that reindeer husbandry constitutes a fundament in the Saami people's culture, and is integral to Saami individuals' cultural identity. Hence, no industrial activities are allowed in Saami areas where such activities render it impossible, or significantly more difficult, for Saami communities to pursue reindeer husbandry. Mattias Åhrén is the President of the Saami Council, an organization representing the Saami in international affairs.

"Blackstone's planned mine would essentially prevent the impacted communities from pursuing traditional Saami reindeer herding, says Åhrén . "Thus, it would be detrimental to the reindeer herders' cultural identity. As a consequence, the mine is illegal as it would violate the reindeer herders' right to culture. We are positive that international bodies will halt the project. We will use all legal means available to stop the plans for a mine in the area"

The Saami people are indigenous to northern Europe, as the Canadian tribes are indigenous peoples in Canada. The Saami have pursued nomadic reindeer husbandry in its traditional areas since time immemorial. They have inhabited their traditional land since well before other populations colonized their territories. Gran, Ran and Ubmeje are three Saami reindeer herding communities whose traditional pasture lands cover parts of Northern Sweden.

For further information, contact Marja Skum, +47 47 25 11 68, Mattias Åhrén, +47 47 37 91 61 or Anders Blom, +46 70 51 44 480

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