The British-owned Jokkmokk mining company received a concession from the Swedish government on Tuesday for the Kallak project to mine iron ore on a large scale in the north of the country.
The concession is subject to a total of 12 conditions. It allows the company, owned by the British mining company Beowolf Mining, to mine iron ore near the Jokkmokk municipality. Beowolf Mining made the original application more than nine years ago.
Environmental activists and indigenous people oppose the project.
Economy Minister Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson termed the decision "historic," while pointing out that the concession did not include permission to start mining immediately.
But he also said: "I believe there will be a mine here." According to the government, an environmental permit is still required, with a decision expected only in a number of years.
Many of the Sami people of the region oppose the scheme, and the Swedish government has to weigh up the extracting of the iron ore against the impact on the Sami's reindeer herding.
Thorwaldsson said the mine would generate work and growth for the region, and Beowulf Mining said its aim was to establish the most sustainable mine possible.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has visited the region, expressed sharp criticism of the decision.
Sweden today confirmed its shortsighted, racist, colonial and nature-hostile approach. Sweden pretends to be a leader for environment and human rights, but at home they violate indigenous rights and continue waging a war on nature. The world will remember this.#StandWithSápmi https://t.co/r1grDdqcEm— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) March 22, 2022
"Sweden has today confirmed its short-sighted, racist, colonial and anti-nature attitude," she wrote on Twitter.
While Sweden took a leading role in environmental and human rights issues, it was itself infringing the rights of indigenous people and waging a war against nature, she said.