Mining in Sweden
The mining industry in Sweden has a history dating back 6,000 years. Sweden's most famous mine is the copper Falun Mine in Dalarna. Income from the Falun mine funded almost all of Sweden's wars throughout its history. Falun mine is the source of the pigment falu red that painted castles, churches and cottages still seen throughout Sweden.
Sweden today is one of the largest sources of iron ore in Europe, with approximately 92% of Europe's iron and 5% of the world's iron reserves. Currently, Sweden's mines produce 80 million tons of ore in Sweden per year, mostly from Kiruna Mine, which in 2008 produced 27.5 million tons of iron. In 2012, Sweden was one of the most active major mining countries in Europe.
Most of Sweden's landmass is geologically part of the Baltic Shield, which also covers Fennoscandia and northwest parts of Russia. The Baltic Shield has the oldest rock in Europe, and is one of the largest and most active mining areas on the European continent. Most Sweden mines are in the Baltic Shield.
Sweden has a long history of mining, dating back thousands of years. Sweden's earliest mining company was Stora Kopparberg, which operated on the copper Falun Mine. Many German miners and merchants (including some from Lübeck) came into Sweden to join Sweden's mining industry. Because of their influence, iron exports from Sweden went primarily to Lübeck and Danzig in modern-day Poland.
In the Bronze Age, most copper used in Europe originated in places such as Sicily and Iberia and the Levant. For example, a 3,600 year old copper axe was created in Sweden using copper from Cyprus. Europe's economy at the time relied heavily on copper, the major component of bronze.
Sweden's Falun copper mine opened about 1300. It was the largest copper mine in Sweden, and produced two-thirds of Europe's copper needs. The largest industrial work place in Sweden, at its peak in 1650 the mine produced as much as three kilotons of raw copper in that one year.
Iron, as the major component of steel, is of major importance to mining. Crude steel produced in Swedien in 2017 (4,9 million tons) consisted of 1/3 scrap iron and 2/3 of pig iron made from iron ore. Sweden's iron was important to both Nazi Germany and the Allies of World War II.
During the High Middle Ages, Sweden's iron industry followed the "eastern branch" iron production, using bowl furnace methods rather than the open hearth "bloomery" model favored in England. One of the most important Swedish iron products was osmund (also called osmond iron), small pieces made from pig iron, weighing no more than 300 grams, suited to the needs of village smithies. Later, production shifted to bar iron.
The name of Swedish mining company Boliden AB comes from the Boliden mine, near Skellefteå, where gold was found in 1924. The Boliden mine was once Europe's largest and richest gold mine, but since 1967 that mine is no longer active. Nevertheless, Boliden AB remains a major producer of gold in Sweden, because their polymetallic mines can produce as much as 2,000 kilograms per year. Some gold is commonly recovered from copper mines in Sweden and Finland.
Impacts on the environment
The Kiruna Mine, the largest iron ore mine pit in Europe, plans to expand operations in the future. The nearby town of Kiruna would be endangered, however, if iron ore is extracted beneath it, which would cause instability in soil and building foundations. In order to resolve this problem, the mining company LKAB plans to move the entire town with its 18,000 people 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the east.
One building which will be moved during the relocation is Kiruna Church, a Gothic Revival building built in 1912. Many of the town's other buildings, however, will instead be demolished and rebuilt at a new location by LKAB.
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Bowl furnace A furnace consisting of an open or covered bowl-shaped depression in the ground, which may or may not be lined with ceramic or a layer of refractory stones.
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In the Middle Ages the Swedish iron industry belonged to the eastern branch of iron production, in which the 'bowl' furnace developed, not into the open hearths of the English bloomery type, but into 'shaft' furnaces. The most important product was known as osmund, a kind of malleable iron which was forged by hand in small pieces, weighing 250-300 grammes and suited to the needs of simple village smithies.
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It is clear that Swedish iron-making peasants were connected to iron markets beyond Sweden from an early date, with German merchants in Stockholm acting as intermediariess.
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- Media related to Mining in Sweden at Wikimedia Commons