Iron LKAB Politician Supplier

Load up north

Load up north is an annual fair. What makes it a bit unique, the organizer states, is that the fair also targets recruitment, not only the exhibition of machines and tools.

We’re in Boden, Johan’s hometown, so he stops by the fair on August 27 and 28. He meets with a supplier we know very well by now, listens to keynotes arranged by Boden municipality, such as the ones by Peter Erkki and Tage Lundin from LKAB, Anders Sundström (chairman of the board for Swedbank and Kooperativa Förbundet), Inger Edlund Pedersen from Norrbotten Chamber of Commerce, Hans Wahlqvist from Mobilaris (providing solutions for how to track people and vehicles in the mine), and Johan Torgerstad from PON CAT (as in Caterpillar).

Peter Erkki, head of planning, South LKAB

The mining industry is the perhaps most salient industry during the fair, at least when judging from the equipment exhibited and how the ‘talk of the fair’ goes. Overall, there’s optimism regarding the future of the mining industry in the county, although the iron ore price is low and will most likely remain on this level for a while. This is how a company such as LKAB motivates the need to lower the cost for each tonne of iron ore. Peter Erkki talks about investments in the logistic chain to accomodate more large-scale transports by rail and boat. Head of purchasing, Tage Lundin, talks about the re-negotiating of contracts with suppliers and the establishment of a new supplier manual, all in the context of the need to cut costs for LKAB. Ears are tense in the audience.

On recruitment, there are several private staffing agencies as well as a local high school present at the fair (the keynote by Torgerstad addresses PON CAT’s cooperation with the high school), profiling how their operations addresses skills needed in the mining industry (the most common skill has to do with driving large vehicles). One of the largest suppliers to LKAB is BDX and this company even shares a showcase with the staffing agency Adecco in the indoor section of the fair. It becomes clear that these agencies are important to our project, seemingly playing an important part in the labor process in the Kiruna mine.

The perhaps most surprising showcase at the fair is the one shared by the public libraries in the county of Norrbotten. In the fair magazine, a librarian is quoted saying: “The idea behind having a showcase at a machine fair is to inform and show some of the library’s range in order to arouse interest and promote reading, particularly among men. [—] We hope to inspire more men to become reading role models.”

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Iron Kiruna LKAB Music


Iron Kiruna LKAB Researcher

Greetings from Kiruna!

Art Iron Kiruna LKAB Politician

Mineful art?

On the second floor of Kiruna’s city hall, there’s an exhibition by Kiruna’s association for art (Kiruna Konstgille). The exhibition consists of 100 t-shirts, designed by a variety of local artists (see the video further down, not by us!). The shirts predominantly address the changes that Kiruna is going through and some are relevant to the Kiruna mine and the labour process, or at least we think so. The second shirt below, for example, ranks different groups of people from one to eleven. First place: people who work for LKAB. Sixth place: girls [not women; it would’ve read “kvinnor” and not “tjejer”] who work for LKAB. Although we like to think that we can ‘encode’ some of these shirts, many of them also puzzle us. Isn’t art wonderful! One thing is clear, however: the art association is one part of the labour process periphery that we have to close in on.

Nomad city
Movement in Kirunavaara (the mountain where the Kiruna mine is)
Housing shortage
Ranking different groups in Kiruna

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Cameco Canada Saskatoon Uranium

The Walleye seminar

We wrote briefly about the first trip to Saskatchewan, Canada, in a post from July 5, mainly focusing on the differences in how aboriginal people were treated by mining companies. This post is a bit more “social” perhaps! The trip predominantly served to develop the relations with the people at the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development (ICNGD) at the University of Saskatchewan and the mining company Cameco. The forum for these meetings was the Walleye seminar, arranged by the ICNGD, and with participants both from corporations and academics from Sweden, Norway and Canada. The seminar started and ended on campus, but the four days in the middle were spent in Missinipe, a five hours drive north from Saskatoon. The seminar proved very valuable, both from a professional and a social viewpoint. Below is a video, remembering the Walleye:

Cameco Canada Saskatoon Uranium

Canada, mines and aboriginals

During the first trip to Canada (more info, click here), Johan participated at a four-day workshop on governance and development issues related to the north of Canada, Norway and Sweden.

The discussions were very fruitful and although none of the other participants focused on labour processes in the mining sector, a lot of relevant matters related to it were discussed. One key matter was the relation large companies in the mining and energy sector have with aboriginal people. In Canada, aboriginal people have stronger legal rights and recognitions, but they also face tougher social challenges with poverty, alcoholism etc. It was mentioned that those aboriginal communities that develop their capabilities to act as contractors/suppliers to the mine or power plant and that demand such opportunities as part of their agreement with the companies seem to be better off. This does not seem as common in Sweden, perhaps to some extent because the Samis are not recognized in the same way as aboriginals in Canada. Samis do, however, face less of the social challenges that aboriginals do in Canada. So, in Canada, many contractors are owned by First Nation bands as a direct effect of the agreement regarding the use of their land. This makes them directly involved in the labour process and highly relevant to our project!

Iron Kiruna LKAB Music Worker

Pumping iron

Kiruna LKAB

Metaphors lived by

Metaphors are far from precise, but they have the power to make sense of historical and contemporary events, places, memories and experiences. In short: metaphors are important tools for storytelling.

Stories contain however a lot of dead metaphors – that is, metaphors that simply are not meaningful. In our encounters with miners, people living in Kiruna and outsiders, we get to listen to heaps of stories that are very rich in metaphors. Below is a list of some of them related to the mine, the company and the town. The question lingering is if these metaphors are meaningful (and if so for whom and why?) or dead (and if so, at what cost to history and present?).

The Kiruna mine: The motor (that powers society), the sun, purgatory (the mountain is getting warmer as new levels are reached), mother/mummy, facade (a clean outside, a dirty inside), Mordor, the basement.

LKAB: The Company, the mafia, the patron.

The city of Kiruna: The space station.

Kiruna LKAB Ronja Worker


This is the first time we open our website to other authors and who better than a person working in the mine? Her name is Ronja and she will regularly write for this site. First, you’ll find her original text in Swedish and than our translation of it to English.


Jag heter Ronja och jag jobbar som reparatör under jord på nivå 1365. Jag är 23 år och inne på mitt fjärde år på arbetsplatsen. Vårat jobb är att ta hand om tillredningsmaskiner, de maskiner som borrar, skrotar och bultar i berget, se till så att de fungerar som de ska och att de alltid kan producera. Ena dagen kan det handla om sönderkörda hydraulslangar på maskiner i gruvan, medans dagen därpå kan handla om att felsöka i timmar på en å samma maskin inne i våran verkstad för att hitta ett oförklarligt fel. Det är varierande och du får arbeta med både kroppen och knoppen om man säger så.

Just nu så ligger jag i sängen och sträcker på benen innan ännu en dag på jobbet kallar, har just kommit hem från Gymmet där jag tränar ca 5-6 ggr i veckan under arbetsveckorna. Känner mig trött, kanske för att det är mitt i veckan och dels för att det inte blev mycket till sömn i natt då jag slutar 00.00 på natten under eftermiddagsskiftet och bilen skulle in på verkstan kl. 07.00. Somnade rätt sent eftersom jag ännu var vaken när dom sköt i gruvan, man behöver inte kolla på klockan för att veta vad tiden är då, skjutningen sker alltid vid ca halv 2 på nätterna. Det känns precis som när åskan slår på sommaren, det dånar, mullrar och ibland kan fönstren skaka till. Jag bor nästan mitt i stan. Kan vara därför jag känner det så tydligt.


My name is Ronja and I work with maintenance underground on level 1365. I am 23 years old and into my fourth year on this job. Our job is to take care of machines used in development, the machines that drill, nett and bolt, making sure that they function as they should and that they always can produce. One day it can be about rutted hydraulic hoses on machines in the mine, while the next day is spent troubleshooting for hours on the same machine in our workshop for a mysterious problem. The job is varied and you work with both mind and body.

Right now I’m lying in bed, stretching my legs, preparing for another day at work, have just arrived at home from the Gym where I workout 5-6 times a week during the weeks I work. I feel tired, maybe because it’s the middle of the week and partly because I didn’t get much sleep last night as I end my shift at 00.00 and my car had to be at the workshop at 07.00. I fell asleep rather late as I was still awake when they were blasting in the mine, you don’t have to check the watch to know what time it is then, the blasting always take place at 01.30 during the nights. It feels exactly like thunderstorms during summer, it booms, rumbles and sometimes the windows shake. I live in the center of the town. Maybe that’s why I feel it so clearly.

Kiruna LKAB Management Worker


New management practices and information technology is challenging the boundaries between work and other spheres of life. But who is setting the boundaries between on/off-work, and between body and mind?

It seems that for blue collar workers, the physical entry/exit passage to the mine is a solid barrier between work and off work. When they enter, they are at work, when they leave, they are off work. For example, once the worker is registered for work, inside the gates, it is not okey to temporarily de-register and fetch something outside the gates (perhaps an important document or the food box in the car). A worker told us that when a worker moves this way, he or she can get a warning. Movement of blue collar workers’ bodies are restricted and continuously tracked inside the gates, but how about information? The workers are not allowed to use social media to show pictures from daily work life. You need permission from the company to take pictures. But workers do this anyway. Information technology and social media seem to escape physical barriers and set rules.

The managers we talk to, however, experience a much more fluid work-life. The physical body is allowed to move around and they continously get reports on how the organizing of rocks proceeds. There is a constant flow of mails and SMSs. This do not only occur when something out of the ordinary happens at work. He or she can, of course, choose to not check mails or SMSs when off work. Those whom we talk to are, however, constantly on line, “just checking”. To be informed about things at work while off work, they seem to argue, makes it easier to come to work. They are more updated and can avoid surprises.

Worlds collide, however, when managers initiate contacts with blue-collar workers that are off work. One example given to us tells of a manager calling a worker at home, inquiring about an event at work. The conversation is not about sharing information, but about inquiring information, and about investigation. Old and new versions of information technology (social media and telephone calls) are obviously ignorant to physical boundaries, but this also raises the question of which practical usages is okey or not, and who is setting the rules?

Iron Kiruna LKAB Narvik Supplier

The red line

LKAB’s core process seems to be taking place below ground (and there are about 500 kilometres roads underground in the Kirunamine) and above ground at the closely related plants. This is what the company refers to as the ”red-line”, basically coinciding with what is happening ”inside the gates”. The control of the red line is crucial as all disruptions to the red line are very costly. But if the labour process is at the centre of analysis and not production per se, where does the red-line really begin and end? Are there any forks in the road that we need to take that deviate from the company’s? We know that the company has an own office in Shanghai, China, in order to be closer to their Chinese suppliers and that the iron ore pellets produced in Kiruna are exported via the harbour in Narvik, Norway (and the trains are runned by the company). Certainly, this must be included in the red line, but we have a strong feeling of still missing out on lot of other relevant labour process paths…

Media Sweden

In the news

Earlier this week the project appeared in one of the two local newspapers in Norrbotten (the northern most county in Sweden, where most mines are). Click here to see the article (in Swedish, there’s a link to a video on the site as well). Given the plans for new mines in the region (the mine in Laver, Älvsbyn, was mentioned), the journalist focused on whether or not mines lead to long-term communities or if labor is based on fly in-fly out.

Iron Kiruna LKAB

Four days in Kiruna

We’re in the middle of a heavy snowstorm. Trains are not running, visibility on the roads is lousy, but the pilots in the airplanes report great flying conditions! Different realities to say the least, just as being above and under ground in Kiruna perhaps.

The first project trip to Kiruna, a four days visit, starts off with a four hour tour in the visitors’ mine, 540 metres under ground, and above ground, among the plants. The visitors’ mine constitutes a museum as well as a presentation of contemporary mining, making you travel both in space and time. It’s a unique place for sure, presenting us with a mixed feeling of being amazed of what man can do (the tool-maker, homo Faber, 1365 meters is the new main level) and of the contrast to the beautiful high mountain landscape in which it sits.

After our tour, we shoot some film of the surrounding environment (we’re not allowed to shoot in the mine), but the weather conditions are not great:

The mine and main office.

We also make some interviews, but more on that later!

Kiruna Luleå Researcher Sweden

First interview

This afternoon, Johan met with Curt Persson, historian at Luleå University of Technology and chief of Norrbotten county’s museum. Being from Kiruna, having worked in the mine, and thereafter with culture and history predominantly related to Kiruna and the patron Hjalmar Lundbohm, Curt proved to be a rich source of knowledge. More talks to come we hope! He also gave us a copy of his first book about Lundbohm. In Swedish only, but we’ll write about it further on. Click here to get to the book’s homepage.