How do you go about moving an entire city? That was the question the remote Swedish mining town of Kiruna faced in 2004 when its 18,000 residents learned that the ground below it was growing increasingly unstable. The city center sat on top of the world’s largest iron mine, and high demand for the material had meant that the state-owned company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) was digging deeper and deeper.
It’s been 12 years since this realization, and a new, state-sponsored video released this week provides a look into the solutions the town came up with. In it, two wide-eyed, spirited filmmakers take us through the city, talking to locals and architects involved in what my colleague Feargus O’Sullivan says is perhaps the most radical urban-relocation project so far this century.
As Niklas Siren, the vice chairman of Kiruna’s executive committee, says in the video, the city exists because of the mine. Every night, explosions inside the mine go off, but the locals are so used to it that they barely take notice. LKAB brought employment opportunities to the city, but each time iron ore is extracted, waste rock from above falls and causes ground deformation. Eventually, this made the ground too unstable to support the city.