Kaunisvaara is an iron ore project located approximately 100 km north of the Arctic Circle in the municipality of Pajala, Sweden. The Sahavaara Exploration permit covers an area of some 16,456 hectares.
Sweden's oldest iron artifacts come from 500 BC. In the 8th century poor agricultural crops and a need for base and precious metals determined the local farmers, fishermen and warriors to embark on one of the world's most renowned pillaging and state building odyssey - the Viking military conquest of the then known world.
A few centuries later, in 1918, prospecting in an area northeast of Pajala geologist V. Tanner discovered five magnetite deposits by using a dip needle. Diamond drilling commenced in 1961 on the Sahavaara occurrences.
The Sahavaara deposit is located close to the centre of the Kaunisvaara village.
Northland Resources is a European company that intends to develop the magnetite deposits by building two open pit mines and a 12 Mtpa beneficiation plant that would process 176 Mt ore at 32.53% iron and 1.03% sulphur over a mine life of 15 years.
Concentrate would be transported by trucks to Svappavaara, and from there by railroad to the port of Narvik in Norway.
Mining is scheduled to commence in 2012 and would employ about 300 people.
No major environmental and/or social problems have been raised by the project.
The Kaunisvaara iron ore project is located in Norrbotten, the Sweden's northernmost county, in the municipality of Pajala and near the village of Kaunisvaara. By road, the town of Pajala is located approximately 210 km north of the major city of Lulea which has 70,000 inhabitants, and about 180 km from Rovaniemi in Finland which has 40,000 inhabitants.
The Kingdom of Sweden (For Sverige i tiden) is located on the Scandinavian Peninsula in northern Europe. It shares borders with Finland and Norway. It is European Union's third largest country and most of its 9.4 million people live in the southern half of the country.
History of iron in Sweden began around 500 BC. Iron was smelted from bog iron, limonite and ferruginous earth in blister furnaces and the resulting low carbon iron would be forged in tools and weapons.
Centuries later in a quest for metals and wealth Scandinavian warriors, known as Vikings raided and terrorized European countries as far as the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They conquered and settled in England and Russia; attacked Constantinopole and later on they served as mercenaries and formed the Varangian Guard that provided personal protection to the Byzantine Emperor. Their journeys were important because they opened many European trade routes and they were the first Europeans to land in America.
Sami are indigenous Arctic people mostly known for being reindeer herders. They are the original inhabitants of the area and their grazing pastures are to be partially affected by the proposed mining development.
The landscape was sculpted by glaciers and is dominated by lowlands covered by glacial moraines that limit the outcrops to the riverbanks.
The winters are cold and wet and the project should be able to operate in all seasons.
Economy is dominated by small businesses involved in forestry, agriculture and manufacturing. Tourism is also a growing business.
Bedrock outcrops are scarce and the iron deposits are masked by glacial till and alluvial deposits and lie beneath 8-10 m of wetlands.
The magnetite deposits are located along the margin of the Karelian craton in a thrust fault zone in quartzites, dolomitic marbles, schists and mafic metavolcanic rocks. The package of rocks was intruded by gabbro, diabase and granitic rocks.
The Kaunisvaara project comprises two iron ore deposits: Tapuli and Sahavaara.
The Sahavaara deposit occurs as a continuous seam that is concordant with the host sedimentary rocks that dip 50-70 degrees to the west. The hanging wall is represented by quartzite and the footwall is graphitic schist. Minor remnants of skarn (rock's name come from Swedish) altered dolomite appear within the deposit and they most likely represent the protolith. Mineralization is represented by magnetite, pyrrhotite, pyrite, serpentine and tremolite.
The Tapuli deposit is located approximately 4 km to the north of Sahavaara. The deposit is also hosted by a Precambrian supracrustal sedimentary sequence. It is a stratabound tabular body of magnetite with minor chalcopyrite and pyrite as accessories minerals.
Proven and probable reserves total 176.0 Mt at 32.53% iron.
Mining & Operations
Two separate open pits would be developed to allow mining of the two iron ore deposits that are 4 km away from each other.
The Tapuli pit contains 397 Mt of material comprising 101 Mt of ore and 296Mt of waste. The Sahavaara pit contains 475 Mt of material comprising 75 Mt of ore and 400 Mt of waste. Average strip ratio is 1:3.95.
The project requires an average 12 Mt of crusher feed per annum (combined from both deposits). The maximum total material movement for the Tapuli deposit is 35 Mtpa while the average ore grade is 26.1% Fe. The maximum total material movement for the Sahavaara deposit is 44Mtpa and the average ore grade is 41.2% Fe.
The pit design assumes a surface mine operation using drill and blasting operations, a mixed fleet of tracked and wheel loading equipment and conventional haul trucks.
Drilling and blasting will be performed on 12 m high benches, with blasted material excavated in a single pass.
A minimum mining width of 100 m has been assumed where possible to suit an excavator and 228 t rigid body off-highway trucks.
Mining equipment include: Two O&K RH340 Electric Front Shovels, 12 Cat 226 t 793F haul trucks, CAT 994F wheel loaders, Graders and Dozers.
A crushing station location has been designed close to the exit of each pit. Ore will be hauled by trucks to this crushing station and dumped. A conveyor system will transport the material from the crushing station to a processing facility which is located adjacent to the Tapuli deposit.
The magnetite ore from the Tapuli and Sahavaara pits will be upgraded in a processing plant to be located at Kaunisvaara. Pyrrhotite from Sahavaara deposit would also report to the concentrate and would be removed by flotation.
Some 12 Mt of ore is going to be processed every year ? each pit would provide 6 Mtpa and because of their slightly different characteristics ores would be treated in two independent streams.
The process route includes the following unit processes: Primary crushing (at each pit); Blending stockpiles; Primary & secondary milling; Primary & secondary magnetic separation; Reverse flotation of sulphides; Magnetite concentrate dewatering and filtration; Final concentrate storage and truck loadout; Coarse tailings classification; Fine tailings thickening.
The overall grade of the magnetite concentrate produced is approximately 69% Fe and will contain < 0.05% S, < 1% SiO2 and < 2 to 3% MgO.
Concentrate would be trucked out to Svappavaara, a distance of 150 km, on existing 9 meter wide roads. The road trains will have a capacity of 124 t and a length of 37 meters.
From Svappavaara the concentrate would be transported by railway to the Norwegian port of Narvik, which can handle vessels of 300,000 t.
The tailings management facility is designed as central thickened discharge facility. The primary waste rock dump storage facility comprises two dumps: Tapuli (162 Mt) and Sahavaara (179 Mt). The Sahavaara waste rock has bulk potentially acid forming characteristics and has some potential to leach potentially problematic elements. To remediate the problem the acid generating rock and tailings are going to be encapsulated within buffer material.
Power for the operation will be supplied from the Swedish national grid.
Potable water supply to Kaunisvaara and Tapuli mine will be provided by boreholes to be drilled in the vicinity.
The project would be able to operate throughout the entire year.