Heavy haul train in Sweden.

EUROPE: The development of iron ore mines around Pajala in Sweden and Kolari in Finland has spurred the re-evaluation of proposals for the Ishavsbanen, a 312 km line linking Kolari to Skibotn on the Norwegian Sea. A feasibility study by Sweco was presented by a grouping of local authorities in June.

Northland Resources expects to open the first mine in late 2011, and peak production is expected to reach 13 million tonnes a year, equivalent to seven trains/day. The Finnish line paralleling the Swedish border south from Kolari to Kemi on the Gulf of Bothnia is being upgraded and electrified, but the port ices up in winter and is not accessible to the largest ships.

Sweco was commissioned to look at constructing a line running 266 km north from Kolari, parallel to the E8 road, then 46 km across Norway to the coast. Skibotn would be accessible by the largest vessels, and a harbour at Falsneberget would cater for general freight. Passenger services are also proposed.

Subject to further studies and resolution of environmental concerns, construction could take up to 10 years. The NKr25bn cost is seen as viable over the 100-year life of the mines.