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Sunday, July 12, 2009

There's Gold in Them Thar Fjords: The Great Swedish Cloudberry Rush Pans Out

Sweden — It was a lousy blueberry season in 2007, said Siv Wiik, 70, one of a pair of Swedish grandmothers now credited with discovering what experts say may be one of the richest gold deposits in Europe. “That year it was too cold in the spring, so there were few berries,” she said.

Berry picking is a serious business to Mrs. Wiik (pronounced VEEK), who was born in this village of 171, and her friend, Harriet Svensson, 69. For 40 years the two, widows with children and grandchildren, have explored every patch of field and forest clearing in the region, hunting for mushrooms and wild berries — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cloudberries.

But the women are also amateur geologists. They never leave home for a stroll in forests or fields without their geologists’ hammers, with their 30-inch handles, and their magnifying eyepieces, dangling from ribbons around their necks.

So in that terrible August when the blueberry crop failed, they decided to poke around for minerals. They went to a place called Sorkullen, far down an unpaved logging road, where trees had recently been felled, upending the earth and exposing rock to the air. Using their hammers, they cleared soil from around the stones, digging for about six hours, deeper and deeper, until they found a rock with a dull glimmer.

Sweden has gold, but it is not in the major league of gold mining countries, as the women were well aware. Still, they were hopeful. “We often found bits of copper and gold there,” Mrs. Wiik said. “So we thought, somewhere there must be a mother mountain. Now, we hope we found it.”

The women phoned Arne Sundberg, of the Geological Survey of Sweden in Uppsala, who came the following day. “When he looked, he thought something was wrong with his eyepiece,” said Mrs. Svensson, laughing. Analysis showed that the stone contained more than 23 grams of gold per ton; most active mines in Sweden yield less than 5 grams.

link: Overturingen Journal - In Sweden, Search for Berries Yields a Field of Gold -


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