Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost municipality, and if it were a town, it would be the largest town in the world. The land area covered by Kiruna is two and a half times that of Rovaniemi. Kiruna has a population of approximately 24,000 inhabitants. Kiruna is a Swedish municipality suffering from negative migration, just as the whole of the Province of Norrbotten. Kiruna’s largest employer, Luossavaara Kirunavaara Oy (LKAB) has reduced its numbers from 5,000 in the 1970s to around 2,000.
Contrastingly, Kiruna has a lack of competent research personnel, and it does not have its own university, or other institute of higher education. The space research facility of the University of Uumaja is located in Kiruna.
Kiruna is situated 145 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, so the twilight and midnight sun periods are much longer in Kiruna than in Rovaniemi. Kiruna houses Sweden’s largest mountain, Kebnekaise.
In 2004, a resolution was passed to gradually move the municipal centre from its current site, as it is subsiding due to earlier iron ore excavations.
Kiruna’s most important industries are mining, ore refining and related technical activities. Competition factors have forced the mining company LKAB to invest into research and development activities, which have also boosted growth in Kiruna’s IT industry. A number of smaller technical production companies and IT enterprises have been established in the region, primarily mainly to provide support services for ore refining processes, but nowadays these companies are no longer exclusively dependent on commissions from LKAB.
Kiruna is also home to top expertise in the field of space research. New companies have been established around Rymdhuset (Space House). Furthermore, the area houses the Institute of Space Physics and the ESA research station. In addition, the Esrange rocket and balloon station is located in the region. Esrange also controls a number of European satellites. Other space research facilities located in the area are EISCAT and Arena Arctica, which is specialised in studying the change in the ozone. METRIA is a company that specialises in reprocessing data obtained from satellites into commercial products.
Tourism is an expanding industry in Kiruna, and it has indeed been one of Rovaniemi’s competitors. One destination that has done much to put Kiruna on the vacation map is the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel, the first of its type in the world. Kiruna offers many of the same activities and recreational possibilities as Lapland and Rovaniemi. In addition, they arrange adventure trips into mines and “scientific” activities related to space research. Kiruna informed its number of tourists as being 300,000 annual overnight stays.
Friendship town activities
Kiruna has been Rovaniemi’s guardian town since 1940 and friendship town since 1950. Friendship town activities have mainly been concentrated on back and forth visits by civil servants and elected officials. According to archives, there appears to be less cultural exchange or other forms of co-operation between Rovaniemi and Kiruna compared to e.g. Rovaniemi and Murmansk.
Kiruna and Rovaniemi have the common friendship town of Narvik, and attempts at initiating trilateral co-operation were performed in the 1990s.
In addition to official friendship town activities, a number of official delegations from Norrbotten and Kiruna have visited, which have concentrated on the development of commercial activities and in particular, the development of tourism in the Rovaniemi region. There have been 2 – 3 such visits each year.