Sweden’s northernmost city Kiruna was formed around a mine for more than 100 years ago. Now, the same mine is threatening to swallow up the town.
Moving the city of Kiruna
The Kiruna move is unique in many ways – but it’s not the first time in history cities or parts of them have been moved and rebuilt. Here are some examples from around the world.
Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Near the Dutch town of Nijmegen, the river Waal takes a sharp bend and becomes narrower, forming a bottleneck. At times of high water, the river has not always been able to cope with the volume of water. To protect residents from flooding, the authorities decided to widen the river. The work was completed in 2016 and as a result, the water level dropped – but the increased safety required sacrifices from the town’s residents. Fifty households had to be relocated as a result of the flood risk management measures.
On Good Friday, 1964, disaster struck the town of Valdez in Alaska. In the early hours of the evening an earthquake registering 9,2 on the Richter Scale struck 70 kilometers west of the town. The quake triggered an underwater landslide, which in turn created several tremendous waves. The first waves washed away the Valdez waterfront and drowned 30 people who had been standing on the dock. In all of Alaska, 114 people died as a result of the earthquake.
Three years later, it was discovered that the entire town had been built on unstable ground. Valdez was relocated 6 kilometers east of its original site, and 52 buildings were moved.
Bob Dylan’s former home town in Minnesota is also known as “The town that moved”. A mining city like Kiruna, Hibbing was established in 1893 by German miner Frank Hibbing, who discovered iron ore nearby. In the 1920s, iron ore was also found under the city and so Hibbing moved three kilometers south to its present location. The work was in many ways even more difficult than what Kiruna is dealing with today. Building by building, using horses, steel wheels, logs and tractors, Hibbing was moved to where it stands today. More than 180 houses and 20 businesses relocated to their current sites.
The town of Vidalia in Louisiana suffered huge damages when the Mississippi river started to flood in 1927. In 1938-1939 more than 100 homes, offices and government buildings were either demolished or relocated six blocks inland in a federal flood control project. New streets were also built. You can visit the old site by strolling the Vidalia Riverfront where a walking path has been built along the river. The town also has a suitable slogan: “A city on the move.“
In 1956, the town of Tallangatta was forced to move eight kilometers west due to the expansion of the Hume Dam. More than 100 homes were transported by truck to the new town, while 37 new homes as well as businesses and public buildings were rebuilt. According to Australia’s ABC News, the move was stressful for many people – but thanks to it, Tallangatta was also one of the first Australian towns to get sewerage.