About 150 km above the Arctic Circle you will find the Swedish town of Kiruna. Kiruna is mainly known for mining and for several years also as ‘the Swedish city in Lapland that has to move 4 kilometers’. An entire municipality that moves a few kilometers, it doesn’t happen every day. The move is necessary for the further mining of the iron ore, which threatens to sink the city.
The history of the mining town of Kiruna
After discovering that there was a lot of iron ore in the ground at the place where Sami had lived for centuries, they founded the city of Kiruna here in 1900. Railway lines were also immediately built for the transport of the iron ore. So it was a carefully planned city.
There are 3 mines of which only the oldest (Kiirunavaara) is still open. The other 2 mines were active from 1920 to 1970. In the 1970s they switched from opencast mining to shaft construction. They are currently more than 1 km underground! The mountain of mining can be seen all over the area.
The great move
Before my visit to the city, I couldn’t really picture what that ‘moving’ looked like exactly. Once there, this became a bit clearer. In recent years people just have started to build their houses further from the mines. So many houses don’t have to move. It is mainly the older houses that are close to the mine that will be moved. And you can take that move literally. They tear down the houses piece by piece to rebuild them a few kilometers further away from the mine. Moving all these buildings will cost several billions and it is the Swedish state mining company that is responsible for all costs. About 20,000 people live in Kiruna.
When I was there in the summer of 2017, they had started moving this villa. It was the home of the first boss of LKAB, the Swedish state mining company. It is one of Kiruna’s oldest buildings and one of the closest to the mine. Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården is moving a few kilometers away along with some other valuable buildings in the neighbourhood.
The church of Kiruna
Some buildings will be demolished brick by brick and rebuilt elsewhere, but they will move this old wooden church in its entirety. The church dates from 1912 and was voted the most beautiful building in Sweden. To move the church they will build special roads. The move is planned 2025-2027.
Can’t you imagine it all? This video gives a clear view of the city. And especially pay attention to the nice part about the ‘spark’!
Kiruna City Hall
One of Kiruna’s buildings that will not be moved but will simply be demolished is the Kiruna City Hall. It is close to the mine and although it won an award in 1964 as the most beautiful public building in Sweden, it was chosen to design and build a completely new town hall in the new center of Kiruna. The striking tower will be moved and will become one of the eye-catchers of the new center.
Nearby: the ice hotel
A twenty minute drive from Kiruna you will find the first ice hotel in the world. Icehotel 365 is now open all year round, both for those who just want to visit and for those who actually want to stay and sleep in the ice hotel.
Although I didn’t recognize much from the TV series on the spot, the Nordic Noir series Midnight Sun is set in and around Kiruna. A must to watch to learn a little more about the local problems and the tensions between the Sami and the miners. In the summer months the sun does not set for 2 months and with a bit of luck you will see the midnight sun (if it is not cloudy, like when I was there). Are you interested in more Netflix tips?