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Managing the 1970s energy crises in a state-owned mining company: strategies pursued by the Swedish iron ore producer LKAB


  • Kristina Söderholm

    (Luleå University of Technology (LTU))

  • Linus Larsson

    (Luleå University of Technology (LTU))

  • Patrik Söderholm

    (Luleå University of Technology (LTU))


In this paper, we analyze the strategies adopted by the Swedish state-owned iron ore mining producer LKAB in response to the 1970s energy crises, i.e., soaring energy input expenses in combination with stagnating demand for iron ore. The analysis builds on a unique empirical material, e.g., minutes from board meetings, over an extended time period. This permits in-depth analyses of the two main strategies pursued by LKAB at the time: (a) securing energy supplies (as well as output sales) through upstream investments in uranium and coal mining; and (b) engaging in own R&D to enable energy-saving measures and product development. While the LKAB experiences tend to support the notion that investments supporting broader societal goals, although at the expense of firm productivity, may be likely in the presence of strong state government involvement, they also show that state-owned mineral enterprises can be highly innovative and competitive following investments in internal R&D. Specifically, LKAB’s R&D contributed to significant product development and energy savings, the latter occurring both in the company’s own pelletizing process as well as in the processes of key customers (i.e., the steel companies). The paper concludes by highlighting a number of important lessons for contemporary energy transitions in the process industries.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristina Söderholm & Linus Larsson & Patrik Söderholm, 2018. "Managing the 1970s energy crises in a state-owned mining company: strategies pursued by the Swedish iron ore producer LKAB," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 31(1), pages 179-190, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:31:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s13563-017-0122-y
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-017-0122-y

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