Privatization, Mining Threaten Saami Land Rights & Livelihood

What is affected
Land Private
Land for reindeer husbandry
Type of violation Dispossession/confiscation
Date 21 February 2008
Region E [ Europe ]
Country Sweden
Location Sapmi, Northern Mountain Range

Affected persons

Total 17000
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Blackstone Ventures Inc.
Brief narrative Companies and Swedish state both breach Saami rights
Published Date: 21 February 2008
Type: Statement

Companies and Swedish State Both Breach Saami Rights

21 February 2008

JOINT PRESS RELEASE by Sámiráddi (Saami Council) and Sámid Riikkasearvi (the National Swedish Saami Association)

Saami areas in Sweden are currently experiencing an explosion in mining and windpower development. There has been an increase in both Scandinavian and foreign companies in prospecting, mining and windpower. Ironically, while many of these companies market themselves to investors based on principles of Corporate Social Responsibility, companies often fail to see the connection between the impacts of their activities and the rights of Saami people.

"The Saami Council and the National Swedish Saami Association are in dialogue with several companies, one of which is Blackstone Ventures Inc. This is a Canadian exploration company, who claim to respect the rights of indigenous people in Canada. At the same time, the company seems to have no problem with performing intrusive exploration activities in sensitive Saami reindeer herding areas in Swedish nature reserves", says Mattias Åhrén, Head of Human Rights at the Saami Council.

The Saami Council and The National Swedish Saami Association (SSR) are demanding that companies and the Swedish state both take responsibility to ensure that Saami rights are protected before development projects, such as mining and windpower, go ahead.

"Sweden does not currently have any clear policy on how it intends on protecting Saami rights in the face of increasing industrial activities in Saami areas", says Rebecca Lawrence, Advisor to the Saami Council. "If the Swedish State does not immediately change its legislation, and provide Saami communities and organisations with adequate resources, it is complicit in the confiscation of Saami lands in the name of private and national development interests".

Malin Brännström, Lawyer for the National Swedish Saami Association, works closely with Saami communities trying to defend their rights: "We are at a crisis point in Saami areas whereby the last unexploited Saami areas are being claimed by a mining and windpower boom. The State has a responsibility to ensure that Saami rights are protected. But the State is currently making it easier and easier for resource projects to go ahead, with no consideration being given to the impacts on traditional Saami livelihoods, such as reindeer herding", says Brännström.

The Saami Council and the Association are also critical of the common argument used to justify mining, windpower and other developments: that development creates local jobs.

"We heard the exact same arguments from Stora Enso when they argued that they had to continue purchasing wood from Saami reindeer grazing areas in Northern Finland in order to support local forestry employment. For the company, the local municipality, and the Finnish state, everything was justifiable in the name of local employment. But short-term local employment cannot be justified if an industry is causing irrevocable harm to local indigenous people and their traditional land-use practices. The Saami Council had a successful investor campaign against Stora Enso and assisted in filing a complaint to the UN for the Finnish state`s sanctioning of the loggings. We may be compelled to take similar action in Sweden against those companies and state organs that do not respect Saami rights", says Mattias Åhrén, Saami Council.

Canadian Mine Threatens Traditional Reindeer Husbandry, Sweden

Area in question - Source: Blackstone Ventures
(Press Release, Saami Council) The Saami people say a mining project in Northeastern Sweden, proposed by a Canadian company, threatens their traditional way of life and violates their basic human rights, as recognized by the United Nations.

On 31 August 2009, Blackstone Ventures Inc
Costs €   0