Meet REXSAC PhD students: Camilla Winqvist
Discover the fifth episode of our series of Q&A with REXSAC PhD Students. This time meet Camilla Winqvist, PhD student at KTH. Her research is focused on how abandoned mines have been handled by local, regional and national stakeholders in the past, and aims to integrate this knowledge in future decision-making processes.
What drew you to the area/topic of your studies?
When pursuing my Master’s degree in global environmental history, I decided to further develop my theoretical skills by studying the history of technology at KTH. I met my future supervisor, Dag Avango, who was one of my lecturers during my studies. He introduced me to the topic of abandoned mines and the different processes taking place in post-extractive sites.
I developed my own interests while writing about heritagisation processes at abandoned mines in the sub-Arctic area of Västerbotten (Skellefteåfältet) in my Master’s thesis. I gradually began to see the particular difficulties facing post-extractive sites in less accessible areas with more extreme weather – so the jump to the Arctic was not that big of a stretch. I was very lucky to meet Dag, and applied to REXSAC for my PhD when I was done with my Master’s degree.
What are the objectives of your work?
Mines always come to an end, and they are inherently sensitive to boom/bust cycles. This makes for an interesting research subject; what to do with the places where mining once dominated the landscape?
A mine is not simply a “hole in the ground” – it consists of a variety of interconnected artefacts, places and people who are part of a larger technological system. This makes the question of how to handle the legacies of a mine more complex and interesting.
There are plenty of opportunities to re-use the old mining areas, and some creative projects have included green houses and mushroom cultivation. More commonly, however, old mines are left as they are – although many are remediated in different ways to cope with toxic legacies from the mining process.
Remediation is another important part of my research; the different kinds of remediation that are chosen for a particular mine and why.
In short, I aim to research how abandoned mines have been handled by local, regional and national stakeholders in the past and I seek to integrate this knowledge with future decision-making processes, hopefully at state level.
How does it support the objectives and work of REXSAC?
I’m part of RT 7, which deals with post-mining legacies. RT 7 explores the afterlife of communities and regions built around resource extraction in the Arctic. More specifically, RT7 focuses on the role of environmental remediation, re-economization and heritagisation of sustainable post-extraction futures.
My own work deals primarily with issues of re-use, which means that all of the three main themes, remediation, re-economization and heritagisation, are central to my thesis. I hope to contribute with some key insights as to whether or not we can ever truly deem a place as “post-industrial”, when the potential for it to re-open is ever present. This has far going implications for how to think and plan for mining closure, and ultimately for the sustainability of Arctic communities.
What has been your learnings or reflections from the REXSAC field-based coursework?
The field-based coursework with REXSAC has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences throughout my time as a PhD student. The fieldwork was diverse with many opportunities to interact with a wide variety of stakeholders. When dealing with post-extractive sites, it is fruitful to partake in conversations about the issues that different stakeholders face – and it is quite fascinating to get the diverse approaches and to hear the reasoning behind them. REXSAC grants their PhD students access to these conversations, and this has been beneficial for all of us.
Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of the courses have provided an invaluable insight into the challenges that we all face as Arctic researchers, regardless of academic discipline. We even get to try out research methods from other disciplines, which has been challenging but great fun!
What are your career aspirations?
I am constantly torn between pursuing a career path in academia and switching lanes to work on state or regional level with questions related to remediation, and possible futures for abandoned mining areas.
I would like to continue working with the subject of remediation, and to continue questioning the concept of “post-industrial”. It would be interesting to expand beyond the Arctic realm and make some comparisons to other places that deal with mine closures.
In any case, my main aspiration for my own career is to influence the decision making processes around mine closures and post-mining sites.