Sinking town being moved house by house as hidden treasure lies below it

An entire city is being picked up and moved in a bid to save it from the “goldmine” that lies beneath.

Kiruna, 125 miles above the Arctic Circle in the far North of Sweden, is a victim of its own success. Built to serve the community that extracts raw materials from the earth below, this mining town is slowly beginning to sink into the earth.

The hospital has cracks in and a school has been deemed unsafe for use, as the settlement subsides into the mined ground it sits on. Now, in a bid to save it, it is being moved two miles up the road in a project billed as the most ambitious relocation project in history. Even the community’s terracotta-coloured church, once referred to by vicar Lena Tjärnberg as the “living room of the community,” is being given its marching orders.

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Precious iron ores lie below the surface, with equivalent material to six Eiffel towers pulled from the ground each day in what makes up roughly 80% of the European Union’s supply. Naturally, this is incredibly lucrative and led Sweden's deputy prime minister, Ebba Busch, to say that Sweden "is literally a goldmine".

Mining in the area has been going on for over 100 years, and the community that works it has been there too. The iconic church was built in 1912, but now, 111 years later, it’s time for it to move on.

The depth of the mining moved from 775 metres below the surface to 1045m in 1999,Mining Technologyreports. As of 2020, it is understood to have reached 1350m and work is ongoing to expand this.

Due to the spread of the mine, the decision to move the town of Kiruna was taken in 2004, with the project now hoped to be finished by 2026. It will see 450,000 square metres of homes, schools and amenities moved in a bid to save the town and will take around 6,000 people with it. But, as is to be expected of a scheme of this scale and level of ambition, emotions are running high among community members.

Speaking to theGuardianearlier this year, Local official Nina Eliasson said: "Then you feel that this is for real. And of course [it is about] your memories, the place that you grew up in”.

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