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Do jobs trump environment? Bucolic Swedish town faces uranium dilemma.

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While uranium prices are not stable, they are predicted to rise “because the oil is running out,” says analyst Lars Norin at the State Geology Authority.

Yet the price of uranium is less relevant than its nuclear associations. In Sweden, public opinion is still generally opposed to nuclear power, although lawmakers recently overturned the ban on adding more reactors, until now fueled by imported uranium.

Anything for jobs?

While the government is known for its pro-business stance, municipalities retain the right to veto uranium mining. Berg, the municipality that includes Oviken, has promised residents to do just that – a fact not everyone is happy about.

"If there aren’t any jobs you can’t stay,” says welder Henrik Larsson, who just finished high school. ”There are barely any girls left.”

Regional capital Östersund, located across Storsjön, Sweden's fifth-largest lake and a key drinking water supply, provides some jobs. Many local teenagers head there right after high school graduation, but some go farther afield for work.

“We keep hearing all the negative things,” Mr. Larsson says during a break from his work building snowmobile seating for tourists. ”But if there was a mine here we’d have guaranteed work, so get rid of it all, as long as there’s jobs.” 

With the phrase “get rid of it all,” Mr. Larsson homes in on one main reason for other villagers’ skepticism: A mine, if given the go ahead, would be open, literally shaving away parts of the ridge that Oviken sits on. 

Geologist Olle Holmstrand, who works at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), says he understands the plight of job seekers, but adds, “you can’t solve rural communities’ problems with heavy, dirty mining. Northern Sweden has become our domestic version of a developing country. They have to deal with the pollution while we take their natural resources with promises of jobs. It’s blackmail.”

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