Saami people have claimed that a proposal by a Canadian company for gold-mining in Sweden’s northeast violates their UN-recognised human rights and will threaten their traditional lifestyle. SIKUnews reports that the Vancouver-based mining organisation Blackstone Ventures Inc has announced that it has ambitions to start test-drilling in the region used by the Saami. Blackstone has also revealed plans to begin mining the area, something which Saami claim has not been agreed to by locals.
The Saami communities do not recognise the authority of the Canadian company to begin drilling, and claim that Blackstone does not hold the necessary work permits and work plan which require the approval of indigenous reindeer herders.
“This is the heart of our land,” said Saami communities’ spokesperson Marja Skum. “This is where the reindeer come to calve, and where they find the richest pasture. Our forefathers have lived with the reindeers on these mountains since time immemorial. We are determined to pass the legacy on to the next generations. Therefore, we have no choice but to do everything we can to stop this mine. If a mine is established in the planned area, we will no longer be traditional reindeer herders. We will lose the most vital part of our identity.”
The Swedish Saami Association has also spoken out against the plans, claiming the best grazing lands for reindeer lie directly in the middle of Blackstone’s proposed mining area. Director Anders Blom defended the rights of the herding community. “Blackstone has picked the absolute worst place to prospect. The planned mine is in an area that the communities can simply not replace. That is why we will assist the communities to the best of our ability to stop this project,” he said.
Saami leaders argue that the UN Human Rights Committee has acknowledged the rights of the Saami for reindeer husbandry and therefore banned any industrialisation of areas that contain reindeer activity.