Flooding Luleå city

Perspectives on hydropower, mining, dam safety and flood risk governance

Document identifier: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-76717
Keyword: Engineering and Technology, Civil Engineering, Teknik och teknologier, Samhällsbyggnadsteknik, Dam safety, Lule river, Hydropower, Mining, Management, Tailing dams, Hydro power dams, Historia, History
Publication year: 2019
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 6 Clean water and sanitationSDG 3 Good health and wellbeing
The SDG label(s) above have been assigned by OSDG.ai


Luleå city is located downstream of 18 hydropower dams of which the majority are classified as high consequence, meaning that if there is a dam failure, there will be severe consequences downstream. The highest risk for dam failure is when the dams are full, October to about end January each year, i.e. the coldest part of the year. In a worst case scenario water (and ice) levels may rise up to 5-6 meters in the central parts, within less than 48 hours. Dam safety work entered the international dam sector agenda in the 1970s, after the Teton dam failure in the US. In Sweden, attention to and work with the risk of dam failure began the 1980s, as the hydropower construction era ended. The recent tailing dam failure in Brasil has drawn public attention to the risks with the dams used to store waste from mines. While a major tailing dam failed in Finland (Talvivaara) in 2013, so far Sweden has been spared from major disasters. What is so far unknown of in Sweden, and rarely discussed, is the combination of the two systems; tailing dams and hydropower dams in the same river, as well as and the risks and governance complexities thereto associated. Yet this is of importance to Luleå, as since 2011 there are plans for a mine within the Lule River, at Kallak/Gállok. This would bring two high consequence systemstogether, with two different main responsible actors – Vattenfall on the one hand, and the owner of the mine on the other. The public and decision makers have so far had little knowledge/understanding of the risks of such combination. Based on interviews and participatory observations within four research projects funded by the Swedish research council (VR) and FORMAS (since 2008) I will discuss the complexities for flood governance.


May-Britt Öhman

Luleå tekniska universitet; Samhällsvetenskap
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