Boliden AB

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Boliden AB
Publicly traded Aktiebolag
Traded asNasdaq StockholmBOL
ISINSE0000869646 Edit this on Wikidata
IndustryBasic resources
Founded1931; 89 years ago (1931)
HeadquartersStockholm, Sweden
Key people
Anders Ullberg (Chairman), Lennart Evrell (President and CEO)
ProductsMined and smelted copper, zinc and other metals
RevenueSEK 36.72 billion (2010)[1]
SEK 5.643 billion (2010)[1]
SEK 3.955 billion (2010)[1]
Total assetsSEK 35.13 billion (end 2010)[1]
Total equitySEK 18.83 billion (end 2010)[1]
Number of employees
4,410 (average, 2010)[1]

Boliden AB is a Swedish mining and smelting company focusing on production of copper, zinc, lead, gold and silver. Following a series of acquisitions during the 1980s and 1990s the company acquired mining and smelting assets of the Finnish mining and smelting company Outokumpu in 2003. Outokumpu acquired the subsidiary Boliden Contech and Boliden's copper and zinc divisions. As a consequence of the deal, Outokumpu ended up controlling 49 percent of the Boliden shares.

The company has approximately 4,500 employees. The name comes from the Boliden mine, some 30 km northwest of the Swedish town of Skellefteå, where gold was found in 1924. It was once Europe's largest and richest gold mine, but since 1967 the mine has been defunct.


Business Area Mines conducts exploration, mining and milling operations in Sweden and Ireland. Its main products are zinc and copper concentrate, with some lead, gold and silver content. The goods produced are sold both to the Group's own smelters and to external customers. Boliden owns and operates Europe's biggest zinc mine at Tara in Ireland. Tara became part of Boliden in early 2004, but production began there in 1977, since when over 60 million tonnes of ore have been mined. Boliden also owns Garpenberg, which is Sweden's oldest mine still in operation. Mining at Garpenberg began back in the 13th century. The mineral-rich Skellefte field lies within the Boliden Area, where almost 30 mines have been opened since production began in the 1920s and where Boliden currently operates the Renström and Kristineberg underground mines and the Maurliden open pit mine. Boliden also owns and operates the Aitik open pit mine, which is one of Europe's biggest copper mines. Metal grades at Aitik are low, but this is compensated for by high productivity levels and efficient milling processes that also exploit the ore's gold and silver content. An expansion project that will double Aitik's ore production to 36 million tonnes per annum by 2014 began in 2007 and will be completed in 2010.


Business Area Smelters refines both metal concentrate and secondary materials to produce base and precious metals at smelters in Sweden, Finland and Norway. The main metals are zinc and copper but the production of lead, gold and silver also makes a substantial contribution to the Business Area's revenues. Other products include sulphuric acid and aluminium fluoride. Boliden owns and operates two zinc and two copper smelters and one lead smelter. The Kokkola zinc smelter in Finland is the second largest in Europe and the fifth largest in the world, and mainly produces an alloy used in the galvanising of thin sheet metal. The Odda zinc smelter, which produces zinc for the steel industry and aluminium fluoride for Norway's aluminium industry, is located on the west coast of Norway. The Rönnskär copper smelter is located in the Swedish town of Skelleftehamn and its main products are copper, zinc clinker, lead and precious metals. The smelter, which produces sulphuric acid as a by-product of its operations, also produces metals from electronic scrap and other secondary materials. The Harjavalta copper smelter, located on the west coast of Finland, produces copper cathodes that are mainly sold to manufacturers of semi-finished goods. Other important products include gold, silver and sulphuric acid. The Bergsöe lead smelter outside Landskrona in southern Sweden extracts lead from scrap car batteries. Bergsöe is one of Europe's four biggest players in the lead recycling industry. Approximately 60 per cent of the plant's lead production is sold to the European battery industry, with the remainder used in the manufacture of roofing sheet.


On 10 December 1924, a sensational ore deposit was discovered at Fågelmyran, just over 30 km northwest of Skellefteå. Test drilling revealed what was then Europe's richest ore. The first Boliden ore was extracted in the spring of 1926 at what would become the Boliden mine – a mine that would prove, over the course of several decades, to be Europe's biggest and richest gold mine. The deposit also included copper and large amounts of silver. The town of Boliden quickly grew up around the mine. The leading light in the development of the Boliden company was Oscar Falkman (1877–1961), who was the driving force behind the exploration work that began in the second decade of the 20th century, and which was accelerated due to the metal shortage that arose in the wake of World War I. Falkman continued in the role of Boliden's President until 1941. Boliden AB was also part of the financier Ivar Kreuger's business empire until 1932. The Rönnskär smelter was built to process the Boliden ore, and commenced smelting operations in 1930. The world's longest ore tramway, between Boliden's mine in Kristineberg and Boliden became operational in 1943. The ore tramway was 96 km long and by the time it was shut down, 44 years later, it had transported 12 million tonnes of concentrate. Operations started at the Aitik mine, outside Gällivare, in 1968. This open pit mine would develop, over the years, into one of Europe's biggest copper mines. During its first year of operations, it produced approximately 9,000 tonnes of copper, 160 kg of gold and 7 tonnes of silver.

The company grew during the first few years of the 1970s thanks to a joint venture with the German company, Preussag. This led to the expansion of Boliden's lead smelting and refining capacity, and in 1976, Boliden launched a Kaldo type furnace, for processing metals. 1976 also saw Boliden launch the first flash smelting furnace for lead, applying Kaldo technology, at Rönnskär.

In the mid-1980s, Boliden exported a total of 20,000 tonnes of metallic residues from the Rönnskär smelter to a Chilean company, Promel, for processing. Boliden paid Promel for processing work that was never carried out and the residues were, instead, stored on the outskirts of the town of Arica at a site which was converted to a low-cost residential area in the 1990s on the instructions of the social services. The residents were unaware of the waste's presence and as a result, many people came to harm. In the autumn of 2009, the Chilean government announced that the 7,000 or so residents of the area would be evacuated. The waste was exported before the Basel Convention prohibiting the export of environmentally hazardous waste came into force.

At the end of 1986, the Trelleborg industrial conglomerate acquired a controlling interest in Boliden. The same year also saw Boliden acquire the Spanish company, Apirsa S.L., which extracted zinc from the Aznalcóllar open pit mine, 45 km west of Seville. Trelleborg launched a major restructuring of the Boliden Group in 1996, and the new company, Boliden Limited, was formed in Toronto. Two years later, Boliden Ltd. bought the Canadian company Westmin.

On 25 April 1998, the tailings dam at Apirsa's Los Frailes mine burst and 4.5 million cubic metres of tailings sand drained out into the nearby Guadiamar river, near Doñana National Park, causing the worst environmental accident in Spain so far. Extensive investigations revealed defects in both the dam's original construction and in subsequent construction projects. The company reacted quickly to the situation and immediately began a comprehensive programme of reclamation work. In 2006, Boliden lost the demand against the companies that built the dam Aznalcóllar. The Spanish Supreme Court also confirmed that Boliden should pay 43,7 million euros to the Spanish government.[2] The recovery costs of Aznalcóllar are estimated to be 240 million euro; Boliden has not assumed any part of these costs.

In 1999, Boliden implemented a restructuring programme at Group level and the Boliden share was listed on the Stockholm stock exchange.

In 2001, Boliden's head office was relocated back to Sweden.

In late 2003, Boliden bought smelters and a mine from the Finnish steel group, Outokumpu, and as a result, the Kokkola and Harjavalta/Pori smelters in Finland and the Odda smelter in Norway became part of Boliden. The purchase also included the Tara zinc mine in Ireland.

History in brief[edit]

2006 Decision to invest in an expansion of the Aitik mine. Agreement with OM Group Inc (OMG) regarding the refining of nickel concentrate at Harjavalta. Successful exploration resulted in increases to Garpenberg's ore reserves. A new lead section was also opened at Bergsöe.

2005 Kvarnberget is the name given to a new mineralisation discovered in Garpenberg. Decision to invest in expansion of the Harjavalta smelter. Feasibility study of possible expansion of the Aitik mine. Boliden sells its shares in Breakwater Resources and Lundin Mining. First edition of Boliden's in-house magazine, "Boliden Magazine", published.

2004 New Boliden is created through the structural transaction with Outokumpu. Work begins on creating Boliden's new strategic platform – the New Boliden Way (NBW). The Odda zinc smelter is modernised.

2003 Boliden acquires Outokumpu's mining and smelting operations and sells its Fabrication and Technology Sales operations to Outokumpu.

2001 A fourth expansion takes place at Kokkola, increasing capacity to 260,000 tonnes per year, making it one of the world's biggest zinc smelters.

2000 Harjavalta's nickel operations are sold. Maurliden, the 28th mine in the Boliden Area, opens. The new Rönnskär complex is inaugurated.

1998 The Spanish Los Frailes mine closes as a result of the tailings dam failure, causing extensive damage in the environment, near Doñana National Park. The Rönnskär +200 expansion – an investment of SEK 1.9 billion – is approved. The direct leaching method is implemented at Kokkola.

1997 Boliden establishes its head office in Toronto. The share is listed on the Toronto and Montreal stock exchanges.

1995 Harjavalta is expanded, increasing copper production by 60 per cent and nickel production by 200 per cent.

1993 The “copper shuttle” train begins transporting copper cathodes from Skelleftehamn to Elektrokoppar in Helsingborg.

1990 The concentrator at Boliden is expanded and modernised. The Outokumpu Group is incorporated, and the zinc smelter becomes known as Outokumpu Zinc Oy and the copper and nickel smelters as Outokumpu Harjavalta Metals Oy.

1988 The Spanish mining company, Apirsa SL, becomes a subsidiary of Boliden.

1987 The Swedish industrial conglomerate, Trelleborg AB, takes a controlling interest in Boliden.

1979 Boliden buys Paul Bergsöe & Son.

1977 Production starts at the Irish zinc mine, Tara.

1970 Production of aluminium fluoride begins at Odda. In Ireland, Tara discovers the big zinc and lead deposit.

1969 Operations begin at the zinc smelter in Kokkola.

1968 Mining operations start at Aitik.

1967 The Boliden mine is closed down. Outokumpu decides to establish its own zinc smelter in Kokkola.

1964 Boliden buys half of the shares in the Norwegian zinc smelter, Det Norske Zinkkompani A/S (Odda).

1957 Boliden acquires the Garpenberg mine from Zinkgruvor AB.

1955 The world's deepest railway – between the Långsele and Boliden mines – is completed.

1952 Construction of a sulphuric acid plant at Rönnskär to exploit the sulphur dioxide-bearing chimney gases.

1949 The flash smelting method is introduced at Harjavalta.

1946 Boliden publishes Sweden's first in-house magazine, “Smältdegeln” [The Melting Pot].

1945 Copper production starts at Harjavalta.

1943 The 96-kilometre ore tramway between Kristineberg and Boliden opens. Tin and lead smelting starts at Bergsöe.

1942 Lead plant built at Rönnskär. Paul Bergsöe & Son AB formed in Landskrona.

1940 Operations start at the Kristineberg mine.

1939 Outokumpu Oy starts extracting zinc concentrate from Outokumpu ore.

1931 The two mining companies – Västerbottens Gruvaktiebolag and Skellefteås Gruvaktiebolag – are merged to form Bolidens Gruvaktiebolag.

1930 Operations start at the Rönnskär smelter.

1929 Zinc production begins at Odda. The first ore train to Rönnskär leaves Boliden on 24 September.

1925 Västerbottens Gruvaktiebolag and Skellefteå Gruvaktiebolag are formed.

1924 Gold discovered at Fågelmyran in Boliden.


In the mid-1980s, Boliden was involved in a dumping controversy in Chile. According to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, "Boliden shipped approximately 20,000 tonnes of smelter sludge to the Polygono area in Arica between 1984 and 1985. The waste derived from Boliden’s Rönnskär arsenic plant in Sweden and was sold to a Chilean company, Promel, for processing. However, the waste was reportedly left unprocessed and unprotected at the site until 1998. Starting in 1989, housing developments were built nearby, but Chilean authorities concluded in 2009 that the area should be evacuated as it remained contaminated."

The Boliden controversy in Chile stirred debate in the Swedish news in 2013,[3] after 700 Chilean victims suffering from arsenic poisoning filed a lawsuit against Boliden.[4][5]

See also the Doñana disaster, caused by negligence on the part of Boliden-Apirsa.

In 2016, Boliden was ranked as being among the 13th best of 92 oil, gas, and mining companies on indigenous rights in the Arctic.[6]

In media and popular culture[edit]

The Aitik copper mine (a major mine within the company) was featured on a 2007 episode of the Discovery Channel series "Really Big Things".

Released in 2014, Swedish director Roy Andersson's film A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence includes a controversial scene which, according to the director, refers to Boliden's involvement in dumping dangerous toxins in the Chilean city Arica in the 1980s.[7] In a review of the film, film critic Jessica Kiang describes the scene: "And in probably the most unsettling and memorable scene, which plays out like a live action Monty Python animation, colonial-era British soldiers pack a huge brass drum outfitted with trumpet horns of varying sizes with chained black slaves. The door is closed, and a fire is lit beneath the drum, which begins to revolve slowly (it is emblazoned with the name of Swedish mining giant Boliden) and to emit a kind of music. All this, it is revealed, is being enacted for the entertainment of a group of elderly rich, champagne-sipping white people in evening wear."[8]

The smelting victims in Arica is also the topic of Toxic Playground, a Swedish documentary by William Johansson and Lars Edman released in 2009.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Annual Results 2010" (PDF). Boliden. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Boliden Apirsa pierde la demanda contra las empresas que hicieron la balsa de Aznalcóllar". ElPais. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
  3. ^ "DN". DN. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Boliden lawsuit (re Chile)". Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  5. ^ "Swedish mining company sued for poisoning in Chile". Radio Sweden. Radio Sweden. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  6. ^ Overland, Indra (2016). "Ranking Oil, Gas and Mining Companies on Indigenous Rights in the Arctic". ResearchGate. Arran. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  7. ^ Andersson, Roy (7 Nov 2014). "Roy Andersson: "Boliden ska skämmas"". DN. DN. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  8. ^ Kiang, Jessica. "Venice Review: Roy Andersson's 'A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence'". The Playlist. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  9. ^ "Toxic Swedish mining waste is shipped to Chile". Environmental Defender Law Centre. Environmental Defender Law Centre. Retrieved 4 April 2015.

External links[edit]