The Bergslagen Mining district has medieval traditions of mining for iron, basemetals, silver and tungsten. More than 8500 historical deposits are known and there are three active mining districts (Garpenberg, Lovisagruvan and Zinkgruvan).
Mining was, for hundreds of years one of the Bergslagen region’s major source of income, and for a long time it was one of the world’s largest producers of metals. However, dramatical changes during the post-war period reduced mining and its related businesses up to a point where it almost became extinct, and at the end of the 20th century there were only a few mines left of what had once been hundreds. The entire industry had practically vanished. But things are changing, metal and mineral prices have gone up due to increasing demand on the global market, mainly caused by Asian countries developing from urban to industrial societies. As a result, the Bergslagen region is receiving new attention, and since 2005 the number of exploration licenses has increased by several hundred percent, as both European and global mining- and exploration companies have started investing in the area. In 2004, a number of municipalities, counties, the European Regional Development funds, NGOs and companies joined forces with the purpose of rejuvenating the mining industry in Bergslagen. Bergskraft´s aim is to stimulate economic growth in the Bergslagen region through a series of activities. An important role for Bergskraft is to collect and make available historical data for the region. In the WeBerGIS digital archive (www.webergis.se), more than 80 000 pages of mining related information is presented together with relevant background information, such as simplified geological maps, location of exploration licenses and mineral deposits as well as nature reserves etc.
The growth of the mining sector requires compliance with modern environmental standards. Applied research in collaboration between different private enterprises and the Bergskraft research team creates opportunities for growth of an entirely new sector specialized in remediation of historical mine waste and other metal contaminated soil/water systems in Sweden.
Historical mine sites in the Bergslagen region often generate acidic metal rich leachates posing a threat towards both environment and humans. Environmental research within Bergskraft is carried out with the focus to remediate historical mine sites using alkaline by-products such as fly ashes, slags and lime kiln dust. Several methods have been developed in the laboratory and many of them are currently being evaluated in meso-scale and full-scale. Different strategies have been developed in order to avoid disturbing the often historical and cultural remnants. Alkaline materials are being used to stabilize the mine waste by injecting them into the waste piles. This will result in physcial stabilization (lower infiltration) as well as lowered metal leaching due to increased pH. Alkaline materials are also being used to treat acid leachates from the waste piles. Results have been presented at several international conferences (for instance Alaska, Australia, Canada, Sweden and China).
The national test field
The national test field for environmental research is located in the town of Kopparberg, right in the centre of the Bergslagen mining district. Here we perform meso- scale testing on the hydrochemical properties of solids that are either polluting the environment or used to abate acid mine drainage.
The Bergskraft mobile laboratory is equipped for sample preparation and analysis of critical parameters in the field and can easily be transported just about anywhere. At present the analytical techniques include optical ICP, potentiometry, titrimetry, spectrophotometry, ion-chromatography and EDXRF.
The Bergskraft Bergslagen organizations are devoted to facilitate exploration and mining in the region as well as maintain status as a key player in the development of mining related environmental techniques. Companies are welcomed to the region and to take part in the development of a historic region with a promising future!