In a normal year, about 60 of Sattajärvi Sami village’s 1300 reindeer die on a stretch of road west of Pajala, partly due to extensive ore transports. In a project funded by Swedish Mining Innovation, the Sami village together with Kaunis Iron, LKAB, LTU and the Swedish Transport Administration want to find a solution to reduce the number of accidents. The result of a newly developed method is promising, during the pilot season only eight reindeer have died.
– We must find solutions for different industries to exist together. It is possible if you put effort into it, says Johny Lantto, chairman of Sattajärvi Sami village.
During the snowy months of October-April, the reindeer of Sattajärvi Sami village seek out the heaths around road 395 just north of Pajala to live on the reindeer lichen that grows there. The road is well-trafficked, since 2018 also by about a hundred daily truck transports that drive iron ore concentrate from the Kaunisvaara mine to the railway terminal in Svappavaara.
– Each collision leads to insurance matters and costs for everyone involved. It can be traumatic for the driver, in addition there is a risk that he or she will make a sudden turn to avoid the reindeer and have an even worse accident. Kaunis and I started talking about what can be done that does not mean that we set up fences and create a barrier to wildlife, says Johny.
How it works
The idea that the project group wanted to test is to lead the reindeer away from the road to a fenced feeding place, with the help of a reindeer bell.
– The reindeer connect the sound from the reindeer bell to food and seek it out. Once in place in the enclosure, they are collected and driven to a conservatory in Mukkakangas. A difference is that we now start the process two months earlier than usual, as soon as the reindeer start arriving on the moors, Johny explains.
Feeding the reindeer earlier means an extra cost that Kaunis iron covers in the project.
– We look at what this means for reduced direct and indirect costs for the mining companies when the accidents become fewer.
The project group has just completed its first season and the project will continue for another year. The result is promising.
– Last year, 42 reindeer were killed in traffic, and this year there were only eight. I am super happy with the result, it’s great, says Johanna Finnholm, project manager and reindeer owner in the Sami village.
– We hope for an equally good result next year. It will be safer and better for everyone, the reindeer owners and the mining company’s employees, but also for the others who travel along the road.
Johny is also pleased:
– A year is normally a short time to draw conclusions, but we see that it is going in the direction we want. If we have the opportunity to do this for a number of years, we will see what the long-term result will be. We are very hopeful that this will work and be a good solution, he says.
Cooperation is the key to coexistence
Johny Lantto believes that cooperation is the key to enabling a functioning coexistence.
– We cannot avoid the fact that there exists different interests in using the land. We can not get caught up in simply raising issues from our respective perspectives. We must find methods and solutions for different industries to coexist. It is possible if you put effort into it. We are developing a method to make it work here, but it should also be applicable in other places, by other Sami villages and businesses.
About the project
Sattajärvi Sami village applied for and was granted funding of SEK 650,000 for the project “Sustainable, safe transports in reindeer husbandry areas”.
In order to spread the lessons learned from the project, Luleå University of Technology will lead the work of collecting, compiling and analyzing the results.
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