…in Jokkmokk and Laponia, can be found some 12 km northwest of Kvikkjokk. Already in 1662, and in combination with the silver mines of Silpatåkkå in the Jokkmokk mountains, Isak Tiock wrote to the king about the discovery of a large and lucrative iron ore deposit. This deposit was so big that the mountain itself was more like an enormous chunk of iron ore. Tiock also explained that there was a river nearby for power as well as plenty of forest to make the needed charcoal to smelt the iron. He added that there were pastures for cows.
Photo: Panorama view of Ruotevare northwest of Kvikkjokk. Taken from Garvek, south of Ruotevare.
Tiock suggested that, should the iron ore be mined, it would benefit the newly established silver works in Kvikkjokk. The smelted iron could then be freighted to Norway and sent by sea to the Swedish coastline where iron was very expensive. However, Tiock’s report of the iron deposit didn’t receive any greater enthusiasm with the Mining Collegiate. It was felt that starting mining operations for iron ore in the Kvikkjokk area would jeopardize the work with the silver mines and especially the limitations on the supply of firewood and charcoal. However, what would happen in the future was an open question.
The Swedish geologist Schefferus mentions iron ore in his renowned book about Lapland that was printed during the 1670’s. He had received a letter from Samuel Rheen, a church pastor assigned at Kvikkjokk, stating “In the mountains also was found a beautiful iron deposit, “Petziwari” named, one and a quarter Swedish mile above the smelting hut of Kvikkjokk where ore in a large open part falls off freely”. According to Rheen, no one so far had shown interest in investing in this deposit and, being in his position, he should have been well informed about the matter. Considering that Shefferus’s book was very popular and well distributed, this iron ore deposit must have been known about in the middle of the 17th century.
In the 18th century, Ruotevare’s iron ore deposit was not entirely unknown. On the contrary, it must have been well-known. During his historical journey to Lapland in 1732, the botanist Carl von Linné mentioned Ruotevare in his journals. Although not having personally visited Ruotevare, he wrote, “on the other side from the smelting hut (Kvikkjokk), westwards from Vallevare is wonderful iron ore but hardly worth the trouble to mine because of the difficult journey to Luleå”.
Considered as one of Sweden’s most powerful mining entrepenuers, Samuel Gustaf Hermelin showed a deep interest in Ruotevare, as well as iron ore deposits in Gällivare etc., at the end of the 18th century. In 1796, Hermelin had started several mining operations near and around Luleå where he also bought large tracts of land. He acquired privileges to build several smelting works and, during the summer of 1797, searched for strategic building of these in places such as Selet, Långnäs and Anajoki.
Photo: Remains of Hermelin’s mining cabin from 1798
After studying older documents and visiting actual places, Hermelin gained considerable knowledge about the iron ore deposits of Ruotevare. In his book, The History of Minerals, Hermelin writes about a 1797 independent study of Ruotevare by Carl Magnus Robsahm and information gathered from the diary of Claes Vallman, in the accompaniment of C.A. Hjorth af Ornäs, from a journey taken just a year before in 1796.
Miners were sent to Ruotevare intended to work with prospecting procedures Though not having found iron ore bedrock, they gathered together large boulders of pure iron ore. It was told of workers, hanging in a leather buckets, loosening iron ore from the overhang of a cliff with only hand tools that the ore would fall and could be rolled to a place were it later was transported off by proper means. He had a small cabin built nearby.
On the southeastern side of Ruotevare, prospecting efforts had resulted with workers scrapping off the outer layer of earth without finding iron bedrock and was described as “about half-way uphill, iron ore could be found using the needle of a compass crossing over the ground”. Larger amounts of iron, found in the cliff area of the mountain, were thrown down to see where they landed and, observing the results, it was suggested to make a stone path with which it would be easier to gather and transport ore on. Thereafter, this path was completed as well as the cabin which also housed the operation’s forge. This area was to be assigned with the Kamajokk homestead, an area from Fjällockjaur, towards the northwestern end of Routevare, over the mountain of Njåtsåsjåkkå and a short distance along Kamajokk River.
Photo: The “Hermelin Wall” at Ruotevare
Accordingly, Hermelin employed two skilled rock blasters from Ädelfors in Småland and, together with three other local workers from Kvikkjokk, began work by blasting for iron ore and transporting this to Kvikkjokk. On the southeastern side, four prospects were blasted without finding any iron bedrock. From the earlier attempts along the cliff area, now known to be “Hermelins Wall”, iron ore debris could be gathered up and transported and, with extra workers, more ore could be hacked off the cliff to fall for gathering below. Together with a stone path and some lumber, the transportation of the ore could easily be carried out by horse or by reindeer.
With all his economic and philanthropical ventures, Samuel G. Hermelin eventually went bankrupt!
At the end of the 19th century, mining owners J.A. Falk and N.E. Naselius became interested in Ruotevare. Both were aware of the earlier exploitation attempts and work by Hermelin, a smaller stode pit found in the Helios claim area as well as his cabin that now lay in ruins. Besides a half meter high stone marking, little was evident from this earlier mining attempt.
Ruotevare had partially been an important part of the northern mining collegiate in Northern Sweden. So important that King Karl XIV Johan personally was involved with this development and iron ore from Ruotevare was designated specifically for Selets blasting furnaces just outside Luleå and near the Baltic coastline.
Mining Inspector Trysén reported that Gellivare Gruvaktiebolag analyzed and studied the possibility of building canals along the Lilla Lule River for freighting ore from Ruotevare and Karvek. This development gave no results due to the enormous costs involved and the Swedish State was not interested in being a co-operator as had been thought from the beginning.
In 1859, different entrepreneurs from Gothenburg filed ten claims but these claims were abandoned after one year. Seemingly, iron ore samplings from the area proved to be of poor quality and never resulted in any serious exploitation.
Photo: Remains of Fredrik Svenonius’s mining cabin at Ruotevare
The Swedish geologist, Fredirk Svenonius, researched Ruotevare as part of his studies on Lapland at the end of the 19th century. During his 1877 journey, Svenonius passed Ruotevare and again visited the area September 14, 1891 where he could stay in a newly built cabin. He noted that the surroundings consisted of a majestic pine forest with some fur trees. A year later and together with an engineer Jungner, Svenonius returned to the mining cabin staying two days. In 1893, Svenonius again stayed for a day at Ruotevare.
During these last few years of the 19th century, the Swedish mining laws required that claims must be worked. As proof to these operations, the law demanded that each claim must show a number of so-called “claim defenses”. These were rectangular piles of rock showing distinct form and sides and consisted of bedrock or ore and inspections were carried out by the local minister as a guarantee before the workers would receive payment for their work. Concerning Ruotevare and nearby Vallatj, there are over 300 of these claim defenses built. Probably the highest concentration of claim defenses of this type and age in all of Sweden!
Photo: An example of a “claim defense” from 1890 on Ruotevare. Garvek in upper right corner.
Interestingly enough, from inventory work of the project Older Mines of Jokkmokk, several claims had no defenses built, although historical records show the men received pay for these after the minister inspected and approved the work. This may be explained through bribery between the workers and minister and that both were rewarded through easy money.
Possibly the last interest in Ruotevare was in 1971, when the national power company “Vattenfall” did test drilling on the mountain. This work spanned a few years and Vattenfall could better determine the economic value of the iron ore as well as finding the existence of titanium ore. In spite of this, no actual exploitation was done.
Since then, Ruotevare has become a part of the World Heritage area of Laponia and two nature reserves have been set aside between Kvikkjokk and Ruotevare, thus protecting it’s future from exploitation.
But, as a last note, the English mining company Beowulf Mining has received the right to again test drill on Ruotevare. Beowulf Mining has several test drilling licenses in the Jokkmokk and Arjeplog areas. They haven’t done anything with Ruotevare, but it is interesting how little this company knows about Ruotevare’s history. Beowulf proclaims an enourmous iron deposit, which is true, but angles it’s information to give a portrait that exploitation difficulties are minimum and that iron ore can be found in piles on the ground…the claim defenses from the 19th century.
Footnote: Beowulf Mining will probably have big problems trying to work around these claim defenses, which are classified as cultural heritage remains and over 100 years old. With Beowulf’s interest in Ruotevare, as believably with many other modern mining adventures in northern Sweden, these intressts seemingly are to only increase the share value of their company’s stock holdings and, perhaps later, sell off their claims for a profit and to potential “wannabes” of the mining world.