What does the research project about the mining industry, ‘Organising Rocks’, entail?

“There is currently a boom in the mining industry, both nationally and internationally. Growing material needs around the world create an increasing demand for metals and minerals. Therefore, the Swedish government wants Sweden to have more than 50 mines by 2030, compared to the 16 we have today. At the same time, the mining industry is undergoing a number of changes with tougher profit requirements and increasing automation, which means that white-collar workers represent a growing proportion of a (relative to the amount of ore being extracted) decreasing workforce, where an increasing number of workers are fly-in/fly-out workers or independent subcontractors. Therefore, researchers believe that the ‘hands’ that are needed in the mine are those that provide maintenance for the machines that subsequently work underground. Thus, the management of the company and its machines can be located anywhere in the world. In other words, there are clear signs that the organising of rocks is increasingly informed by a stakeholder model that is more complex and globally connected than what has yet been mapped and analysed in research.

The project Organising Rocks intends to contribute empirically and conceptually well-founded knowledge regarding:

  1. how a modern mine is organised and the way it affects the work process,
  2. how this can be understood in terms of power,
  3. how the parties involved can develop their ability to comprehend and act towards more democratic work processes.

In order to answer these questions, two case studies in the shape of so-called mobile ethnologies are carried out: one of LKAB’s iron ore mine in Kirunavaara, which is one of the world’s most modern underground mines, and one of the Key Lake mines in Saskatchewan, Canada, where the company Cameco mines for uranium. Field studies that focus on Key Lake are carried out together with researchers from the University of Saskatchewan. Mobile ethnology mainly entails that the project will not be empirically bound to time and space in order to unilaterally study local participants and processes relating to the mine itself.”


You write music about your research. Tell us a little about it.

“Yes, I use music in the project Organising Rocks as a way to reflect on my role as a researcher and the results of the research. Listen to the records ‘Spaceland’ and ‘Production’ (on Spotify). I have also made a song called ‘The ever changing tale of the University’ (lyrics here).

You defended your thesis in 2004, and you are a professor as well as the head of department. What is your source of motivation?

“My source of motivation stems from working to achieve a better society. Due to globalisation, our daily activities have greater consequences for humans and the environment in distant places. This raises a need for a new responsibility. The western ethical tradition is obsolete in the sense that it primarily emphasises responsibility amongst people with close relationships (in time and space). It is important to me that I stay critical towards the depiction of both history and the present (not only the history and present of my subject). I see myself primarily as a social scientist, then as a business administrator. In other words, business administration is my foundation, but my interests and responsibility involve all of society.”


What is your view on the connection between research and education?

“It is really important to know how social phenomena in general are connected to the specific subject area, where the critical approach takes centre stage. Matching what single researchers/teachers are doing with what the students ‘should’ learn is, to me, not as important.”


Do you have any tips for today’s students?

“Without wanting to come off as facetious or disrespectful, my advice is to fight the impulse of ‘going with the flow’, of doing what the other students do. I want to meet students who view education as self-cultivation ­– as a chance to develop their critical thinking and independence – and who dare to ask themselves: what kind of person and business administrator do I want to become?”