tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

Mining the schools


We overhear a group of young girls while drinking beer at the hotel. It sounds interesting. Could we engage in the conversation?

We decide not. Two, middle-aged men, beer-breaths, trying to tie in with young girls… Nah, not a good idea. We refrain from this opportunity; we have experienced a similar situation before, and bailed out. However, this evening we dare to interfere to the extent that we say: ”You have an interesting conversation. One of you don’t seem to like Kiruna, but you [looking at another girl] seem to like it very much!” The first, Kiruna-critical girl answers: ”As soon as I get money I will fly out from this godforsaken town.” The other girl says: ”Nothing can get me to leave this place.” She loves it here.

After briefly explaining the project and that we are researchers, the Kiruna-positive girl agrees to show up the day after for an interview. She also promises to try to bring other’s, including the more Kiruna-critical girl. She arrives alone, however. She tells us that she finished the gymnasium last spring and that she now works extra trying to figure out what to do.

Her story is fascinating, but the part that we remember most vividly, however, is about when she was 15, when it was time to choose a direction for the studies at the gymnasium. The company, LKAB, was there to inform about their programs (read more about it here). She remembers that she at the time thought they were were really offensive, almost frightening, arguing along the lines that ”if you don’t go to the LKAB gymnasium and become a miner, what else can you do?”, “it’s the only secure option”, etc.

The intensity in this young girl’s voice when telling us this story is obvious. Her experience of it, four years later, is still strong.

We cannot but help to remember the exhibition of t-shirts at the Kiruna city hall. A translation of the t-shirt that rank different individuals above reads in English:

  1. Those who work at LK(AB)
  2. Sami people
  3. The amateur theater association
  4. Space engineers
  5. Personell at the Icehotel
  6. Girls who work for LK(AB)
  7. Kristina Zakrisson (the Mayor)
  8. Tourists
  9. Semi-Samis
  10. People from the village (referring to small villages in the north, around Kiruna)

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