Sweden’s government gave a qualified green light on Tuesday to Britain’s Beowulf Mining to proceed with plans for an iron ore mine in the far north that has been opposed by indigenous people over its environmental impact.
Beowulf can now start economic and environmental studies and apply to an environmental court to start processing ore, but it will have to meet a range of environmental and other conditions which the government attached to its approval.
Critics say the mine in Kallak, also know as Gallok, would endanger a protected ecosystem and block reindeer migration.
“I think there will be a mine here,” Enterprise Minister Karl–Petter Thorwaldsson told reporters. “I would say the biggest obstacle is the environmental study, because that is quite complicated in Sweden.
Thorwaldsson said there were a range of regulatory steps for the company to pass before the mine could start operations.
Plans for the mine have been opposed by the indigenous Sami people, who have the backing of UN rights experts and the UN cultural organisation UNESCO, as well as climate-change activist Greta Thunberg.
“Sweden pretends to be a leader for environment and human rights, but at home they violate indigenous rights and continue waging a war on nature,” Thunberg said on Twitter after the government’s decision. “The world will remember this.”