Swedish cement crisis averted

Government grants Cementa permission to continue limestone mining for another year.

The Swedish Government has announced that it is to allow cement producer Cementa to continue its limestone mining activities on Gotland island until 31 December 2022.

Cementa, which has a turnover of around SEK2.2 billion (€215 million) and produces 2.7 million tonnes of cement a year, has been operating out of the Slite limestone quarry for a number of years and the cement products its produces account “for 75% of all cement used in Sweden”.

This latest ruling was made by the Swedish Government in a bid to avoid a nationwide cement shortage, that could result from the ongoing mining rights battle between Cementa and the Swedish Land and Environment Court of Appeal.

The company’s permit for its existing cement production operations at Slite quarry expired at the end of October 2021.

Prior to this - in July 2021 - Cementa submitted an application to renew its original mining permit, however this was rejected by the court.

This prompted the Riksdag - Sweden’s parliament - to pass a “special law that allows the government to examine an application for an extended permit”, in an attempt “to avoid the worst cement shortage” in the country’s history.

While the Swedish Government has now granted Cementa permission to mine limestone at Slite quarry up until the 31 December 2022, this may be a short reprieve to what could become a massive crisis.

Earlier this year, the Swedish Construction Federaton (SCF) conducted an impact assement study into what would happen if Cementa was forced to shut down its existing Slite quarry operations. 

“Several major infrastructure projects will be either suspended or delayed. The estimated investment fallout is more than SEK 20 billion per month, and 280,000 jobs are at risk,” said the industry association.

“The suspension of cement production at Slite will cause direct problems for cement supplies, since it is not possible to replace the entire shortfall with imports within the relevant window of time.

It added, “Due to the short time frame, and the fact that a cement shortage could arise within a few months, redundancy notices may already be relevant after the summer.”

According to the SCF findings, which were published in July 2021, if Cementa’s operations were to stop it would not be possible “to solve the acute cement shortage by importing the volumes needed, due to the availability of cement from other suppliers, logistics systems and technical specifications”.

The FSC said, “It could take several years before all of the cement produced at Slite can be replaced by imports. As a result, Sweden will already be facing a cement shortage by the end of the year.”

 

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