Mineral extraction has long been of great importance for the country’s economic and industrial development and is still one of the important industries. In 2013, the mining and minerals industry (steelmaking included) accounted for 12 percent of Swedish goods exports, although its contribution to GDP was just under 1 percent. The mining industry as a whole is highly mechanized and employs just over 6,000 people.
Almost all of Sweden, except Öland, Gotland and southwestern Skåne, rests on the Baltic Shield, which has abundant deposits of a number of valuable minerals. The high quality also makes them worthwhile in an international perspective.
Sweden accounts for just over 90 percent of all iron ore mining in the EU and is also one of its main producers of the base metals copper, zinc and lead as well as gold and silver. Sweden is thus the leading mining industry in the EU. However, in the whole of Europe, mining is much more extensive in the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Extraction of ore now takes place in about fifteen mines, mostly in northern Norrland. About half of the production is iron ore and half comes from complex sulfide ores. For a history of mineral extraction see the mining industry.
In 2011, iron ore mining took place only in the state-owned mining group LKAB’s two large mines in the ore fields in Lapland (Norrbotten fields): Kiruna and (Gällivare) Malmberget. The Kiruna mine is the world’s largest underground iron ore mine, where magnetite ore is mined with high iron content and low pollution content. Stimulated by growing demand in the world market and thus rising prices, mining increased in 2012. Subsequently, another three mines were opened (two in Kiruna municipality and one in Pajala).
As an iron ore producer, Sweden was in eleventh place in the world in 2013 (see further steel industry).
At processing plants adjacent to the mines, the ore is enriched in pellets, which simplifies continued handling. Via the Malmbanan, the raw material is transported to the export ports in Narvik and Luleå and to Sweden’s only large blast furnace in the LKAB-owned ironworks in Luleå. Most of the iron ore production is exported. A large part goes to EU countries, mainly to Germany, while most of the remainder is sold to China and other parts of Asia.
Copper, zinc and lead
The extraction has also been shifted from central Sweden to northern Sweden in the case of sulphide ores. This has happened in several stages (see further mining industry).
Sweden accounts for about 10 percent of copper production within the EU. Most of it comes from Boliden AB’s huge open pit in Aitik near Gällivare. There, the ore body is very large but the copper content is relatively low.
Sweden also accounts for about 25 percent of zinc production in the EU. The two major zinc mines are Garpenberg and the Zinc mine, both in Svealand.
Furthermore, Sweden accounts for about 30 percent of lead production within the EU. Lead is extracted together with zinc in the Lovisia mine in Västmanland.
Copper and lead are refined at Boliden AB’s smelter in Rönnskär outside Skellefteå.
Silver and gold
Sweden accounts for 20 percent of the silver produced within the EU. Silver is mined in Garpenberg and to a lesser extent in the Zinc mine, Aitik and in the Skellefte field.
Gold is the main product from several mines in the Skellefte field and is also a by-product of Aitik. Sweden is the third largest producer of gold in the EU, but in a global perspective, gold production in Sweden is extremely small.
Industrial minerals and natural stones
In various industries, rock is used as a raw material. Limestone is of major importance, which is the main raw material in the cement industry and is also needed in the manufacture of paper. Limestone is mined on Gotland, southern Öland, at Siljan in Dalarna and in the west Gothenburg mountains. In the Masugn village in Kiruna, LKAB breaks down dolomite, which is added at the enrichment of iron ore. Refractory clay is exploited in, among other places, Skåne for the manufacture of clinker and bricks. Quartz, quartz sand, quartzite, feldspar and sandstone are used in the glass industry and quartz also in the production of fiber optics.
Natural stone is broken as blocks or tiles to be used as building material and monument stone. Different parts of the country are known for different minerals, such as Gotland and Öland limestones, diabases from northeastern Skåne, Hallandsgnejs, Bohus granite and Dala sandstone. The most extensive is the quarrying of granite, for example paving stones.