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Swedish Ecotourism Society: Mining Boom Threatens Laponia Ecotourism
*The following is an excerpt from the article "Mining boom threatens Laponia ecotourism" published by the Swedish Ecotourism Society in January 2013. Read the original article here.
The global growth of recent years has pushed up metal prices, which in turn has led to a Swedish mining boom. But there is a conflict between creating jobs in mining and preserving unique natural environments and traditional employment e.g. reindeer herding. Now that tourism is threatened as well, Nature's Best organisers are among those leading the protest campaign in the North.
Matti Berg, ecotourism organiser of the Saami leisure experience company Ofelas Islandshästar & Guideservice, is one of the prominent figures in the protest against Kiruna Iron's planned iron ore mine in Rakkuri in the northern Kalix river valley, south-west of Kiruna.
In the area around Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi, the range of Sami experience activities greatly increased during the last ten years. A development that is likely only the beginning and with potential to deliver many more profile-strong, world class niche products. / Photo: Staffan Widstrand
"This is where I grew up and this is where we have our tourism business," says Matti Berg.
"We give Swedish and foreign visitors the chance to experience the area’s unique natural and cultural attractions. Now these local jobs are threatened, jobs that can actually be handed down from generation to generation and, typically, it is reindeer herding that will bear the brunt of the blow, because the proposed mine will cut right across the migration routes of the reindeer-herding Sami of the Laevas Sami community."
In the long run, however, the biggest threat, according to Matti Berg, is that the Rakkuri iron ore mine will become a hub for further exploitation. This is an area that should be included in the buffer zone of the Laponia World Heritage Site, and it is close to the planned Kebnekaise alpine national park.
"Jokkmokk and the Laponia World Heritage Site are unique places in Europe, and small-scale ecotourism combined with local artisanal crafts and food production is probably a smarter way to use these assets long term." The number of people employed in tourism in Jokkmokk has doubled in the last 10 years. Today, the industry employs the annual equivalent of 160 people, and many believe this figure can double, and double again.
"The unique landscape around Laponia, now threatened by new mines, is definitely such an area," declares Ulf Lovén, the General Secretary of the Swedish Ecotourism Society, adding:
"Nature and wilderness are Sweden"s greatest tourist attractions. An untouched and unexploited area like Laponia, surrounded by lakes, wetlands and high mountain forests has huge development potential, not only for local small-scale and labour-intensive tourism, but also as an iconic image for the whole of Sweden as an exciting destination for ecotourism. At a conservative estimate, tourism already generates hundreds of thousands of overnights stays and restaurant visits, and supports service industries throughout Sweden. This is an area with huge potential, in which hundreds of new, local, and sustainable jobs could be created in a dynamic and innovative segment of an industry with a promising future," he concludes.