In many ways, Kiruna is a municipality of extremes. Most other communities begin their history in the manner of plants: a seed that germinates and then slowly grows and gains strength. Kiruna was planted in the wilderness almost 120 years ago, fertilised with adventure and knowledge, and then grew at breakneck speed. Here the light is clearer, the cold colder, the peaks higher, the horizons broader and the location more northerly than anywhere else in Sweden.
Facts about the municipality
Size by area
A special place, rich in contrasts: the sun never sets for 50 summer days and nights from the end of May until the middle of July. In the winter one long polar night lasts from December 12 until the last day of the year – for 20 days and nights, the sun never creeps above the horizon. Kiruna is a trilingual region, where the Swedish, Sami and Tornedalian cultures live side by side. Kiruna municipality's border to the north is also the national border with Norway, and to the east also the national border with Finland.
Due to the economic upswing and the town relocation there is a considerable lack of housing, and most new arrivals get their first accommodation in the villages of Svappavaara and Vittangi. The distance from Kiruna to Svappavaara is about 40 km, and to Vittangi about 70 km. For more information about accommodation, and to register on the housing list, visit Kirunabostäder's website.
Language groups in the locality
Three languages have been spoken in Kiruna since the community's beginnings: Swedish, Sami and Meänkieli (Tornedalian Finnish). The biggest languages among new arrivals include Dari, Persian, Somali, Tigrinya, Amharic, English, Russian and Thai.
Associations and organisations
Kiruna's 400 or so associations make it Sweden's busiest civil society by population size, and there is a wealth of both sports and culture to choose from. In addition to the Church of Sweden congregation there are some nonconformist congregations such as the Laestadians, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Evangelical Free Church. Kiruna does not yet have a mosque – instead Muslims assemble in homes or temporary premises. The association register lists all of Kiruna's associations.
What is available in the immediate area
The central community of Kiruna has lots of shops, including two that sell second-hand items, and a large shopping centre. Because of the economic upswing, many chain stores are opening branches. The proximity to Norway and Finland also makes Kiruna attractive.
All public services such as the Employment Service, the Social Insurance Agency and the Tax Agency are of course available in Kiruna, while Svappavaara has a comprehensive school, a shop, a post office and a recreation centre, and Vittangi has a comprehensive school, a library, a shop, a medical care centre, a post office, an employment agency and a recreation centre.
Central Kiruna has a relatively long waiting time for childcare (about 6 months), but for Svappavaara and Vittangi waiting times are only about 2 weeks. Childcare is of a high pedagogic standard, with a special programme for new arrivals and the possibility of extra resources to give newly arrived children the support they need. More information about childcare and comprehensive schools is available on the municipality's website.
Compulsory schools and upper secondary schools
There are comprehensive schools in Kiruna, Vittangi and Svappavaara. Kiruna also has a language centre with preparatory classes for pupils who don't know Swedish.
Upper secondary education is run under the auspices of Lapplands kommunalförbund (the association of Lapland municipalities), which encompasses Jokkmokk, Gällivare, Pajala and Kiruna. Lapplands Gymnasium was founded in 2010 and has a wide selection of high-quality programmes. The four schools offer about 20 upper secondary programmes including national, individual, special and nationwide catchment programmes, as well as special needs upper secondary schools in each community. One of the programmes is the popular Industrial technology programme, run in collaboration with LKAB.
Kiruna also has private alternatives in the form of independent schools with different specialisations, e.g. outdoor life, space exploration and a vocational upper secondary school with hairdresser and plumber programmes among others.
Upper secondary pupils from Svappavaara and Vittangi commute daily to central Kiruna by school bus, as do Sfi and civic information students.
Lapplands lärcentra (Lapland learning centres) provide demand-driven adult education, working in close collaboration with the region's business community and organisations both on planning and implementation of programmes. The learning centres arrange adult education at the secondary, special needs, Sfi, upper secondary and higher vocational education levels. Programmes include nursing, adult apprenticeship and occupational Sfi adapted to new Swedes, and several programmes answering to the needs of the mining industry. They also collaborate with the Luleå University of Technology, Umeå University and other higher education providers in order to be able to offer high quality education at different levels.
Malmfältens Folk High School is another option for adult education, with a general course and an immigrant programme that includes Swedish and Swedish literacy.
Health and medical care
Kiruna has a hospital, a medical care centre, an obstetrics centre, a youth clinic, a paediatric centre, an emergency ward and dental care. There is also a medical care centre in Vittangi.
An interpreter can be arranged for all contacts with public authorities. Interpreting is mainly by telephone.
Kiruna has bus, rail and air connections. It takes just over an hour to fly to Stockholm, and trains can take you both north and south. There are bus connections between the villages and to the coast. Timetables are available for flights and trains as well as for Länstrafiken and local buses.
Data infrastructure is also well developed, with broadband connections throughout the municipality.
Work and entrepreneurship
All of Norrbotten is today an economically expanding region, and Kiruna is going through e period of strong growth. More new arrivals have been finding work recently, primarily in technology and care/nursing professions. The upswing also means more hiring in services, trade and related jobs.
Kiruna has the world's largest underground mine, and mining is the community's lifeblood. For over a century the iron ore extraction in the Kiruna mine had hardly any effect on the town's central districts. In 2004 the LKAB mining company produced a forecast for how fracturing will eventually reach the current town centre. That forecast led to a plan for relocating the town. Mining is the very foundation of Kiruna's business community, and for that reason the municipality is prepared to move parts of the town as the principal iron ore vein runs right under the town centre.
Over the next few years hotels, a cultural centre, commercial premises and homes will be completed in the new town centre.
Additionally, LKAB will be opening three new mines in Kiruna and Svappavaara, in quick succession, over the coming years. Seven foreign companies, as well as some smaller local companies and private individuals, are prospecting and test drilling for minerals in Kiruna municipality.
Economic growth and the transmigration of the town means that interest from other industries is increasing and that new businesses are being established in the trade and restaurant sectors. The visitor sector is also growing, with investments being made in tourism in the mountains. Additionally, retirement rates are demographically high in medical care, nursing and education. The previously high unemployment rate has turned and is now the lowest in the country.
There is a labour shortage already, and this will grow as the entire region is having an upswing, leading to competition over labour. To meet the demand, increased inward and labour migration is needed. Mining and the employment it generates is a dominant factor in the municipality, but the local government has long promoted the development of a further three "pillars": the space and environment areas, with training and research ongoing in the municipality (Esrange, IRV and Tarfala research station), and the tourism/experience area, where some major players are already established (e.g. the Ice Hotel and a number of winter sports facilities). Tourism and reindeer breeding are the big sources of income in the villages.