June 2017

Country Snapshot: Sweden

  • By Dominic Stevenson

A strong historical association with mining and a positive outlook mean that the minerals industry will continue to be an important part of Sweden’s economy for the foreseeable future

Sweden has long been associated with mining. The Falun copper mine operated for more than 1000 years before closing in 1992, and is now a popular tourist attraction. Sweden’s rich mining history continues today, and the country is one of the leading ore producers in the European Union.


Sweden is a Scandinavian country located in northern Europe. It is bordered on the east by the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Bothnia, and shares a north-eastern land border with Finland. Its border with Norway runs down the western side of the country, and Denmark is accessible to the south via road, rail and ferry. Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, is located in the south-east of the country. Most major population centres are also located in the south, which has a relatively mild climate compared to the northern areas of the country. Approximately 85 per cent of the country’s inhabitants live in urban areas, with Stockholm being home to 1.5 million people.

A history of industrial innovation

Sweden’s industrial sector is highly developed, and includes internationally recognised companies such as Volvo, SAAB and Ericsson from a wide range of industries. Many world-leading companies involved in the minerals sector are of Swedish origin, such as Sandvik (founded in 1862), Atlas Copco (founded in 1873), LKAB (founded in 1890) and Boliden (founded 1931).

Sweden has a strong culture of research and innovation in the minerals sector. Research bodies and companies work together to help solve key industry issues. The Luleå University of Technology offers a number of minerals-related degrees, and includes a Division of Mining and Geotechnical Engineering that is responsible for more than 30 courses.

Leading producer in the minerals sector

Sweden is a member of the European Union (EU) and is the EU’s largest iron ore producer. Alongside iron ore, Sweden also produces base and precious metals.

Sweden’s geology, coupled with its high-quality infrastructure, makes it an attractive country for investors. Sweden ranks consistently well in the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies, which surveys mining companies from around the world to build a ‘most attractive’ list of mining jurisdictions based on both geological and policy-related factors. Sweden finished eighth on the most recent (2016) list, and has been one of the top ten most attractive jurisdictions for the last five surveys.

Sweden’s ore deposits are found throughout the country, although ore mines are typically clustered in the less-densely populated northern regions. According to the US Geological Survey yearbook, Sweden has a number of deposits likely to be attractive to investors, including base-metal, gold and iron ore. Other resources produced by Sweden include copper, lead, silver and zinc.

Permits for exploration and mining are controlled by the Chief Mining Inspector, who is head of the Mining Inspectorate unit of the Geological Survey of Sweden (GSU). The Chief Mining Inspector is guided in their role by the Swedish Minerals Act, which sets out regulations concerning exploration permissions and extraction rights.

The minerals industry in Sweden – past, present and future

The Swedish government understands the importance of the minerals sector to Sweden, noting that it is a creator of jobs and population growth throughout the country, particularly in rural areas. Mining tourism has further potential to impact positively on Sweden’s economy and culture. The Falun copper mine is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and offers tours of the historic mine and accompanying buildings.

In a 2013 document that provides an overview of Sweden’s mineral strategy, the Swedish government noted that while the mining sector was controlled mostly by Swedish companies during the 20th century, foreign interest in the sector has grown – especially after regulations regarding mineral rights permits for overseas citizens were removed in the early 1990s.

In 2013 Sweden had 16 operating metal mines. Projections of Sweden’s future involvements in the minerals sector point to the industry remaining strong, and indeed potentially even growing, with the SGU predicting up to 30 metal mines in the country by 2020, rising to a possible 50 operating mines by 2030. The Swedish government has predicted that ore production will reach 120 million tonnes by 2020.

Feature image: By Kabelleger/David Gubler (www.bahnbilder.ch). CC BY 3.0. Photo available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6549332. 

Information in this snapshot came from the following sources:

Atlas Copco. Atlas Copco Group History [online]. Available from: www.atlascopco.com.au/en-au/About-us/History

Australian Trade and Investment Commission. Market profile: Export markets – Sweden [online]. Available from: www.austrade.gov.au/Australian/Export/Export-markets/Countries/Sweden/Market-profile.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2016. Sweden country brief [online]. Available from: www.dfat.gov.au/geo/sweden/Pages/sweden-country-brief.aspx

Boliden, 2017. Our history [online]. Available from: www.boliden.com/operations/about-boliden/bolidens-history/

Central Intelligence Agency, 2016. The World Factbook: Sweden [online]. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sw.html

Falu Mine website [online]. Available from: http://www.falugruva.se/en/

Fraser Institute, 2016. Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2016 [online]. Available from: www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/survey-of-mining-companies-2016.pdf

Geological Survey of Sweden. Swedish ore mines [online]. Available from: www.sgu.se/en/mineral-resources/swedish-ore-mines/

Government Offices of Sweden, 2013. Sweden’s Minerals Strategy: For sustainable use of Sweden’s mineral resources that creates growth throughout the country [online]. Available from: www.government.se/reports/2013/06/swedens-minerals-strategy-for-sustainable-use-of-swedens-mineral-resources-that-creates-growth-throughout-the-country/

LKAB, 2017. It starts with the iron [online]. Available from: www.lkab.com/en/about-lkab/lkab-in-brief/it-starts-with-the-iron/

Luleå University of Technology. Division of Mining and Geotechnical Engineering [online]. Available from: https://www.ltu.se/org/sbn/Avdelningar/Geoteknologi?l=en

Sandvik. History [online]. Available from: www.home.sandvik/en/about-us/our-company/history/

US Geological Survey, 2016. 2013 Minerals Yearbook: Sweden [online]. Available from: https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2013/myb3-2013-sw.pdf

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