Sweden’s deepest office workplace is located in Kiruna.

Delivery to the underworld

Sweden’s deepest office workplace is located in Kiruna. In LKAB’s mine, 775 metres below ground level. And if that wasn’t enough... it’s nearly time to move even further down, to gradually furnish offices, dining rooms and other staff areas at a depth of almost 1,400 metres.

One of the earliest science fiction novels, Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, has fascinated generation after generation since 1864. And admit it, even a trip of only a thousand metres below ground sounds a little scary. Although, it also captures your imagination and is quite exotic too!

The thought that there could be roads that lead down to a depth of 1,045 metres below ground is dizzying, yet in Kiruna this is nothing special. There are 450 km of twisting arriageways that are driven daily, in both directions. Christer Emanuelsson, who has worked in the mine for 25 years, and his colleagues take it in their stride.They say that the difference between ‘up there’ and ‘down here’ is not all that great.

“Well,obviously it is,if you think about it.Otherwise, this just looks like any other workplace. It’s fairly dirty and a little more dusty than normal here. Not quite the right place for white linen. No dramatic changes will take place tomorrow either, operations are confirmed until 2012, after which it will be time to move down to the next main level.That will be at a depth of 1,365 metres.”

The move even further down is linked to the iron ore belt.The ‘ore body’ runs diagonally underneath the town of Kiruna.They need to get deeper which means blasting their way in under the present town centre. Formation of cracks and the risk of cave-ins mean that parts of the town must be moved. The discussions of what, when and how have been going on for several years. Certain infrastructural changes, such as to the  electricity supply, for example, have already been made. Construction of a new stretch of railway has just begun, but many ‘softer’ deliberations on which buildings are worth moving are still ongoing. The decision on where everything should be moved to was, however, taken a while ago, and basically lies in a north-westerly direction towards where Luossavaara is now.That the beautiful, unique church is to be moved seems to be an almost unanimous decision, although it is not believed to be under threat until around 2033.

A tough but homely workplace
Kinnarps has supplied all furniture to LKAB for almost ten years now.The tough environment, which is more demanding than most, despite Christer Emanuelsson’s comment about it being like ‘any other workplace’, places high demands on hard-wearing and robust fittings. A large proportion of the work underground is done from the control desks in the open plan office. Drilling and loading of the ore are monitored by computers. Some desks are ‘customised’ for LKAB, others are taken directly from the standard range. Ergonomics is of the utmost importance and a recurring demand in terms of office fittings is vertical  adjustability. Since dust from the mine tunnels is tracked in and work clothes are often a little dirtier than for normal office workers, desktops must be extra hard-wearing. Birch or beech laminate usually makes the grade down here. Just like for any other office, it is important that the mine’s break rooms and the staff dining room feel both welcoming and homely.Which means that padded sofas and comfortable furniture are also taken down below ground.

Direct delivery to the underworld
Stefan Rova is one of six Kinnarps employees in Kiruna. Sometimes he accompanies deliveries down into the mine. Kinnarps has a specially equipped car, and has thus received permission to use the ‘inclined drift’ which slopes at a 45 degree angle down to the populated ‘town’ at a depth of over 1,000 metres. From here, galleries lead to the different areas of the mine. It is possible to monitor every part of the widespread facility on the computer screen. Among other things, the underworld-approved car contains special firefighting equipment which is inspected once a year. All Kinnarps employees have also received special safety training so that they are able to go down and work in the mine. For larger deliveries it is not just the fitters, but the entire team that accompanies the furniture delivery down below ground.

“Formation of cracks and the risk of cave-ins mean that parts of the town must be moved. The discussions of what, when and how have been going on for several years. ...That the beautiful, unique church is to be moved seems to be an almost unanimous decision, although it is not believed to be under threat until around 2033.”

“Being able to offer a direct delivery and fitting service without using a third-party even below ground is obviously an advantage for us,” says Stefan Rova.

For most Kiruna residents, including Christer Emanuelsson and Stefan Rova, there isn’t really any alternative to continuing LKAB operations, and therefore moving the town. The community around Kiruna has only been there for around 100 years. Before LKAB began exploiting the ore, there was nothing there. Few inhabitants are born and raised in Kiruna; even fewer have lived there for several generations. And now, if LKAB cannot continue to mine the iron ore, the town will die out.

Almost every family in Kiruna is dependent on the existence of the Kiruna mine, even if only 300-500 people, 21 shifts a week, work in the mine under current economic conditions.The drill holes are filled with explosives every evening which are detonated at around 1.30 am. Making the whole town shake.

LKAB is a threat to Kiruna, but also its only chance for survival.

LOTTA JONSON