Environmental activists occupy quarry site in Sweden

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Field biologists and activits protest against Nordkalk. Photo: Hakan Erlandsson/SR GotlandArmed with food, drink and picnic blankets, environmental activists have set up camp in northern Gotland, and island off Sweden’s southeast, to protest against the mining company Nordkalk. They want to stop the company from digging a limestone quarry on the Baltic island.

The activists want to protect the endangered plant and mineral species whose natural habitat they say the quarry would destroy. However, according to Alva Snis Sigtryggson, a field biologist who has occupied the site, the mood is not too sombre.

“There are people from different generations here, and even though we’re here to stop a machine, the atmosphere is really nice”, she told Swedish Radio.

When Swedish Radio’s reporter pointed out that Nordkalk has the law on their side, Sigtryggson replied:

“Nordkalk has every legal right to do what they’re doing, but we think that law should be fixed.”

After lengthy legal negotiations, Nordkalk finally managed to get permission to build a limestone quarry on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea in June, despite objections from biologists and environmental activists.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has appealed the court’s decision to grant Nordkalk permission to quarry for limestone in the area, and the appeal now sits with a high court.

Christer Mild from the Agency told Swedish Radio that the area is extremely high in natural value and it houses the largest population of certain rare species in the world.

Legally however, has the right to quarry for limestone after the government got rid of the regulations for quarries in 2009, making it easier for companies to get access to sensitive areas.

Nordkalk’s director general Håkan Pihl says he takes the disruption of Nordkalk’s work by the activists very seriously, and is threatening to demand that they pay damages for the delays they are causing.

“We have every legal right to be here and to be doing the work we’re doing. The activists on the other hand, have no right to be here and to stop our work”, Pihl said.

Swedish Radio tried to get a comment from environment minister Lena Ek on the matter, but she declined to comment.

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