Kiruna LKAB Nature Ronja

Ronja III

Here is the third letter from Ronja. First in original, in Swedish, and then a translation by us into English.

I väntan på bussen som ska ta mig till byn så sitter det en tjej med rosa hår brevid mig, hon frågar mig ifall jag också är påväg till Karesuando. Ja, säger jag och så börjar vi prata med varann. Hon är från Stockholm och är här för att vandra upp till Treriksröset. På nattåget som hon åkte till Kiruna med hade det mestadels bara varit personer klädda i vandringskläder och vandringsryggsäckar berättar hon och då berättar jag om hur populärt det är med vandring här i Kiruna på somrarna, att nästan alla verkar göra det och att jag själv också är påväg upp till fjällen om ett par veckor på en tur. Vi är lyckligt lottade som har så otroligt fin natur här uppe i Norrland med fjäll och orörd mark, och det är så roligt att så många tar del utav den.

Tjejen frågar mig också om stadsflytten,
“Vadå? Så ni har liksom flyttat på gruvan eller har ni flyttat husen som står här eller?”
Ett bevis på att det är inte många som vet så mycket om stadsflytten, inte ens jag som bor här i själva staden kan ge henne ett självklart svar.
“Nej, dom har börjat riva en del hus här och bygga nytt på andra sidan stan där nya stan skall vara”
Förklarar jag lite slarvigt samtidigt som jag nämner bostadsbristen som råder. Att tex många utav mina vänner delar 3-4 st på en etta, att det är många som måste bo kvar hemma trots att dom har råd och vill flytta, bara för att det inte finns någonstans att flytta.
Det är trist att de ska vara så, men man hoppas att allt ska lösa sig när staden byggs upp så småningom.

Bussen kommer och vi stiger in för att sedan börja rulla hemåt mot byn, tjejen väljer en egen plats och vi skiljs åt men jag själv fortsätter fundera.. Vad händer med naturen ifall de hittas mer malm? Om de ska öppnas mer gruvor? Ska allt det förstöras då?

Fler och fler gruvor öppnas här runtom och det är inte bara Kiirunavaara som är i fokus längre. Men vad händer istället om gruvan och gruvnäringen skulle ta slut? Då skulle ju ingenting utvecklas längre! Vi skulle definitivt inte få ett “nytt kiruna” med mer bostäder men å andra sidan kanske inte det heller skulle behövas. Skulle Kiruna överhuvudtaget finnas kvar utan LKAB ?

Många frågor snurrar i huvudet men vem är det som ska svara på dom?


Waiting for the bus to take me to the [home] village, there is a girl with pink hair besides me, she asks me if I’m also on the way to Karesuando. Yes, I answer, and we begin to talk to each other. She is from Stockholm and here to hike to Treriksröset. On the night train to Kiruna, she tells me that there were mostly people dressed in hiking clothes and with back packs, and then I tell her about how popular it is to hike around Kiruna during Summer, that almost everybody seems to do it and that I’m also on the way to the high mountains in a few weeks for a hike. We are very fortunate to have such an amazing environment up here in the North, high mountains and untouched land, and it is really great that so many enjoy it.

The girl also asks me about the movement of the [Kiruna] town,

“What? So you’ve like moved the mine or have you moved the houses that stand there, or?”

A proof of that not many know so much about the movement of the town, not even I, who lives in the town, can give her an clear-cut answer.

“No, they have started to tear down some houses here and build new ones on the other side of town where the new town will be.”

I explain this a bit carelessly, and also mentions the lack of housing that exists. That, for example, many of my friends live 3-4 together in a one bedroom apartment, that many have to stay at home [at their parents’ house] despite affording [a place of their own] and wanting to move, just because there is no place to move to.

It is really sad that it is like that, but you hope that everything will be okay once the new town eventually is built.

The bus arrives and we enter and start rolling, home to the village. The girl chooses her own seat and we get separated, but I continue to ponder. What happens to nature if they find more ore? If more mines are opened? Will everything be destroyed then?

More and more mines are opened around here and it is not just Kirunavaara that is in focus anymore. But what happens if the mine and the mining industry would end? Then nothing would develop anymore! We would definitely not get a “new Kiruna” with more housing, but on the other hand, it is perhaps not necessary. Would Kiruna even exist without LKAB?

A lot of questions spins in my head, but who is suppose to answer them?

/ Ronja

Iron Kiruna LKAB Music Worker


We have been invited to visit production facilities above ground, the processes of dressing and concentration. Noisy, greasy, wet, huge machines, a lot of stairs and levels, high-tech control-rooms and hands-on mechanics. Our host (a manager) spends four hours with us, allowing us to shadow him during his workday, taking us to different places.

The impression was rather overwhelming, but very rewarding. Seeing, hearing, feeling and having a conversation about the place “while on the move” is something else than merely talking about it. We had interviewed our host a couple of weeks before. He then told us the following: “Guys, you’re doing this the wrong way. You should have visited me at work before you try to ask me questions about it”. We could not agree more (we will interview him again!).

To see, hear, feel, and talk about noise, grease, wetness, huge machines, stairs and levels, high-tech control-rooms and hands-on mechanics is good for us (and hopefully for those we meet), but how do we report it? We’re not allowed to shoot film inside the gates, but we have permission to take photos and can use them as long as they first are approved by the company. But how to, for instance, report noise? Using words is one way, so trust us then: it was noisy! The noise was everywhere and made conversation hard. Yelling was often necessary. The noise also had different characteristics (whining, rumbling, crumbling, jarring etc.), different pitch and loudness. We are pretty sure that a lot of the noise was impossible for us to hear (beyond the human ear). The noise was thus also interfering without us being able to notice it. It also interfered in such a way that the recorder on Tommy’s smart-phone hit the red-level when trying to record it and the noise, when recorded, became (even more) distorted.

But what more could be said? A skilled writer could probably do more justice than we do here, but we think one way forward is to make it possible for you to hear (some of) it for yourself. The noise that you hear in the background of this song is recorded at different places in the production facilities (a “noise-collage”). To further assist in trying to disclose our experience we also add some photographs.

Postscript: An inspirational musical piece was Iggy Pop’s “Mass Production” (written by Iggy and David Bowie).

Book Kiruna LKAB

Once a citizen of Kiruna, always …

This blog-post is a mixture between a conventional small piece of text and another musical piece. So the idea is text first and then the music. The song is here, though (for lyrics – scroll down).

There is a saying in Kiruna that carry the meaning that if you are born and raised in Kiruna it leaves a mark on your character that stays with you forever. The geographical location, the people, the wilderness and the mine, influence people’s character in a distinct and unique way. So, people leaving Kiruna stay more or less the same. Kiruna in this sense is something essential, it has a core, at least according to the saying. This story is told by those living in Kiruna as well as the people who have left the town.

There are quite many books and other works that have explored this ‘essence’ – masculinity, working class, Hjalmar Lundbom and the management of LKAB who had visions for the ‘ideal’ town, wilderness and the wild but honest man, the victimized position vis-a-vis the south etc., which offer interesting reads. Stories also circulate (in texts, in oral storytelling) about people moving to Kiruna having trouble to fit in, and there is a continuous debate about ‘who is a genuine Kiruna-citizen’, that in a sense constructs a pecking-order.

We believe that it is hard to overvalue the Kiruna mine’s historical and contemporary significance to all this! The mine is commonly thought of as the reason to why Kiruna exists; and maybe rightly so since LKAB started to build the town when the mine was ‘opened’ (but there have been human settlements in Kiruna far longer back). The mountain and the mine, LKAB:s shaping of the labour process for not only the miners but for the whole ‘worker community’, and its embedding in different power relations, is hard to neglect. At least that is our impression so far.

People stay in Kiruna, and can stay in Kiruna, as long as the mine is there, extracting the iron ore. ‘Inevitable dependency but the possibility to choose to stay’ might be a sentence suitable to depict what we have heard and read about.

But part of the reason for why people, and especially young people, leave Kiruna is because of the mine and the tradition to either directly work for The Company or indirectly work for the many support industries. Young people, as we know, sometime develop other visions for their lives than what the established social order dictates. They want to break free. So they leave, to break free, and most probably they leave for southern parts of Sweden. Many don’t look back – but carry the Kiruna-mark with pride – while some come back, a bit older, more educated, with job experiences. Many of them will work for the mine and The Company. This is a story that we have read about but also heard for ourselves. This is a story about coming home, but the story rarely contains a main character: the mine. The reason for coming home is because of the town and its people, the landscape and the wilderness, the opportunity to take up a lifestyle more connected to the nature. Its a good place to raise children.

But what about the mine? If the mine is so central to Kiruna and the community, then at least the mine has to be part of the reason for coming back, at least indirectly. One grand narrative, as we already wrote above, is that as long as the mine exists, Kiruna exists; its hard to avoid having a relation with, and a dependency to, the mine.

But, surely, there must be people who come back to Kiruna because of their connection to the mine, the mine work, and the (legendary) life style connected to being a mine worker! People that have been, so to speak, marked by the mine in their upbringing and development of character. So far, we have not come across such a story, neither in our conversations nor through reading others works (but we have plenty more to read and more people to meet about the mine and Kiruna, that is for sure). Below is a short text about a person coming back to Kiruna for the sake of the mine. The person has lost his or her job, but instead of trying to find a new one at the current location s/he travel home. Its about trying to break free but ending up fulfilling his or her fate. The song could be located anywhere in time; 2015, 1950 or 1905. In a way, the story is most probably about a man as there are few, and historically even fewer, female mine workers. But it does not have be the case. Further, it is not a tragic story, but a story that portrays hardship and dependency. Therefore it is a blues tune, in a rather up-tempo blues rock style (an evident nod to Jimi Hendrix; no further similarities).


Coming back (they say you never leave) 

Text, music, instruments (drums programmed) and vocals: Tommy Jensen


Back to the mountain

The village was the same

Back to the mountain

The people was the same


Back for the mountain

Lost my job down south

Back for the mountain

But the work has changed


Back inside the mountain

Long hours, stunning pace

Back inside the mountain

Gotcha get paid


Coming from the past

The mine continues its future

Being in the present

It sticks to its past

It defies everyone who leave


Back to the mountain

Its my past, my present, my future

Back to the mountain

It has defined who I am


Coming back to the mountain

Coming back to the mountain

Coming back to the mountain



Management Music Okategoriserade Worker

Learning to labour

A new song from Organizing Rocks called Learning to labour. No videos, no pictures this time. Just the song (for lyrics, scroll down on this page). To listen, click here


Vocals: Erik Björkén

Backing vocals: Molly and Tommy Jensen

Music and instruments (except drum-loops): Tommy Jensen

Lyrics: Johan Sandström


Learning to labour 

Worker, why do you sleep

Why do you slumber so deep

Time to rise, rise to work

You must labour to learn


Worker, you’re not a fool

Making out, behind the tool

Don’t fear the machine, just be lean

No ignorance here


The will to learn, learning to labour

The need to earn, to sell your power

The will to learn, learning to labour

The story is old, sent from the tower

Turn it around, labouring to learn

Reveal it all, the Tony Huzzard song


Some say you’re lazy by nature

They’re wrong, there’s a mirror on the wall

Worker, I see your true creature

Follow me and stand tall


Stories made, stories told

This one you might want to know

No need to hide, no need to pretend

I’m capital’s best friend


The will to learn, learning to labour

The need to earn, to sell your power

The will to learn, learning to labour

The story is old, sent from the tower

Turn it around, labouring to learn

Reveal it all, the Tony Huzzard song


When ends don’t meet

Being interested in doing a so-called case study about the Kiruna mine implies drawing boundaries – between different places and times, actions and actors, events and phenomena. Drawing boundaries is done by everybody, but science excels in this practice. Including implies excluding – to decide where to be, when, who to talk to, about what, how to talk, see, smell, hear… Many scholars have noticed that when you are in the field you always seems to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people, targeting the wrong issues, asking the wrong questions. But, that is not really a problem. It is more of a basic condition for social science and humanities.

The norm of case study methodology (such as the one advocated by Robert K Yin), based on our experience, does not meet the realized or “lived” case study. The norm tells us that researchers have to decide most things before the study starts, or at the least very early on in the project. Otherwise, the scientific status of the study is jeopardized. This norm casts this project in a methodological shade, as something odd, maybe even strange. But in our view, it is not unscientific! There are other scientific genres or traditions than the normal (post-positivistic) science approach to case study research.

The problem for us in the early phase we’re in now is not about excluding per se, but about making exclusions too fast, decisive and convenient. A point of departure for us is that all empirical settings are messy (or liquid) and what seems stable and robust is often quite unstable and fragile. The problem with inclusion is not per se a problem either. It rather originates from the basic condition that we, as researchers, cannot be everywhere, all the time. From this basic condition, inclusion becomes a problem to us because there are so many interesting things to interfere with!

In our project the issue of inclusion and exclusion are related to the idea of the research project – to study labor processes and power relations in the mining industry. As a guiding principle (or discriminator perhaps) we ask ourselves the following: Okey, this might be interesting, but does it have anything to do with the labor processes and power relations in our cases? We constantly have to remind ourselves about this question! The principle then reads as follow: If we, together with the people we meet and interfere with, manage to establish such a connection, then it is included. If not, it’s out, at least for the time being.

Does this seem vague, messy and complex? We think so. It primarily implies, however, that there are rather big stakes at play when case study researchers make inclusions and exclusions.

Normal case study method are in love with the story about making ends meet, about arriving at a firm conclusion based on a firm methodological starting point. We are in love with the story about when ends don’t meet.

Kiruna LKAB Ronja Worker

Ronja II

The second text from Ronja. First in original, in Swedish, and then our translation of it into English.

Hej igen!

Det är fredag idag och denna arbetsdag är fulländad och så är även denna arbetsvecka då jag är ledig i helgen och tänker åka hem till byn. Den ligger ca 22 mil bort så det blir en hel del pendlande om man ska försöka ta sig dit på sin lediga tid, men det går!
 Jag har jobbat förmiddagsskift i gruvan idag vilket betyder att jag stämplar in kl 05.00. Det känns rätt så tidigt och med tanke på att dom spränger kl 01.30 som jag berättat tidigare så kan det ibland finnas gas kvar på skivorna när vi kommer ut på maskinerna, helst ifall fälten bildar en sorts ”ficka” där ventilationen inte kommer åt så bra.
 Just det hände oss idag, Vi skulle ut på en maskin och direkt när man svänger in på skivan så känner man i bilen hur det luktar gas. Ammoniak.

Vi drar igång våran gasmätare och fäster den på jackan och vi hinner kanske ta 4-5 steg ut ur bilen så börjar den att pipa. 
Man kan inte göra klart jobbet då, det är bara att åka tillbaka till verkstan och vänta på att det ska bli bättre luft på stället.

Ca 3 timmar efteråt åkte vi tillbaka och då luktar det ännu men gasmätaren larmar inte längre så då kan vi göra klart vårar jobb på maskinen. Så det är väl det som är de negativa med att börja jobba så tidigt, det och att man inte heller är en morgonmänniska, haha!

Nej, nu tar ja helg, vi ses!



Hello again!

It is Friday and this workday is completed, which also goes for this working week as I am free this weekend and I will spend time at my home village. It’s about 220 km away so there is a fair amount of commuting if trying to get there during one’s free time, but it’s possible! I have worked the morning shift in the mine today, which means that I register for work at 05.00. It feels quite early and given that they blast at 01.30 as I’ve told about before there can still be gas in the “skivor” [the passage in which they’ve just blasted] when we get to the machines, particularly if some sort of ‘pocket’ occurs in the fields where the ventilation have little effect. That’s exactly what happened to us today. We were supposed to get to a machine and as we arrived we felt the smell of gas in the car. Ammonia.

We started our gas-meter and attached it to our jacket and we managed to take perhaps 4-5 steps out of the car before it started to beep. You cannot finish the job then, it is just to head back to the workshop and wait until the air is okay.

About 3 hours later we went back, it still smells but the gas-meter does not alarm anymore. So then we can finish our work with the machine. Well, that is the negative thing with starting work so early, that plus that I’m not a morning person either, haha!

Weekend here I come, see you!



Iron Kiruna Music

Free spirits (no more lies)

So, we’ve written another song: ”Free spirits (no more lies)”. As we see it, the people we meet in Kiruna are inspiring. Their responses trigger other senses than the research mind. Their stories, the way they tell them, the way they invite us. We are lucky.

Music is a way for us to use our artistic license as researchers. This means that the song is not up for a scientific review. It’s an invitation to you; to associate, to feel, to get pictures in your mind, maybe even to sing and dance. The melody and the lyrics – sung by two guest vocalists – are based on a mix of impressions, from a variety of people, and – scary thought – some words are included simply because they have a good rhythm to them!

Guest vocalists: Erik Björkén and Molly Jensen.
Lyrics and photos: Johan Sandström
Music, all instruments and production: Tommy Jensen

Iron Kiruna LKAB Management

The Equation?

Iron ore price down = profitmargins down = productivity up = efficiency up = excavation up = specialization up = ‘cutting programs’ up = number of staff down = learning down = esprit de corps down.

As a consequence of our talks to different people in and around Kiruna, this equation has been spinning in our minds. Then all of a sudden (at least for us) the CEO of LKAB, Lars-Eric Aaro, was fired! Here is the explanation given by the chairman of the board, Sten Jakobsson (translated from Dagens Industri, 2015-05-28):

“Six, seven months ago the market price was 70 percent higher. We are now in a phase where we have to use every ounce of productivity and cost efficiency to keep us afloat. Lars-Eric Aaro was good at markets, customer relations and brand management. He has also worked with cost savings, but we need to go a step further.”

The new CEO is Jan Moström, from another Swedish mining company, Boliden. A leading columnist in the largest daily newspaper in the county of Norrbotten, NSD, states that dark times now await LKAB and he gives the new CEO a nickname: “The Butcher from Boliden”.

The voice of a young Bob Dylan echoes – North Country Blues

Iron LKAB Worker

Checking the plume of smoke

It seems quite common to habitually look at the mine’s chimneys. Why? Well it is an easy measure to check how productive the mine is at the moment.

There are three chimneys; a good day is a day with three, well-fed, plumes of smoke. (Mine worker)

Coming to Kiruna from our cabin, me and my husband check the chimneys to make sure everything is alright. (White collar worker)