8 November 2023

Mining in my backyard: Europe’s new mines divide communities

Marta Portocarrero
Marta Portocarrero
Europe will need greater quantities of critical minerals and rare earth metals to meet its climate targets. To achieve this, mining plans are being revived across the bloc. On the ground, locals are torn between the prospect of economic development and the loss of land and traditions.
Investigate Europe travelled to Kiruna, a mining town in northern Sweden, and home to an indigenous Sámi community. In January, a major deposit of rare earths was discovered in Kiruna, which has been home to an iron ore mine since the 19th century. Centuries of underground mining has made the town vulnerable to subsidence. Now, the entire town centre is being moved to new land due to fears it may collapse. Along with the relocation, the Sámi fear that their traditions and reindeer husbandry will be lost by new mining activities.

In southern Europe, anti-mining activist Carla Gomes is also concerned about the impact of two lithium projects planned in Barroso, a region in northern Portugal recognised by the UN as a "globally important agricultural system".

In Piedmont, Italy, two mountain villages have contrasting views on plans to revitalise cobalt mining in the area. Some are enticed by the prospect of new jobs in a sparsely populated and ageing region, while others fear the social and environmental impacts that new mining could bring.

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