PhD Rural Development at SLU: Tracing sustainability in iron ore extraction 

July 13, 2022

PhD position at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Student Photo: Unsplash / LinkedIn Sales Solutions.

This recruitment is for one position as PhD candidate in Rural Development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Research in resource governance explores questions of politics, justice and sustainability in relation to the extraction and use of natural resources. A large part of such research attempts to link resource-producing regions, often based in the Global South, with markets that tend to be in wealthier Global North countries. The processing and trade across global markets is often understood as a set of inter-linked networks of exchange mediated by unequal patterns of power. Unpacking how different actors relate to the different stages of resource processing can reveal variegated effects on rural, resource-dependent societies as well as the creation of a range of sustainability outcomes.

The PhD project aims to critically and creatively investigate understandings of sustainability in iron ore mining justified by the climate crisis. The starting point is the iron ore used in fossil-free steel recently used to manufacture a heavy construction machine for an end customer in Sweden. Fossil-free steel is produced without emitting any carbon emissions from mine to end product thus promising major reductions in carbon emissions, but also raising questions on how other aspects of sustainability related to the iron ore extraction will be addressed. The first part of the PhD project explores broader understandings of sustainability beyond low carbon in the iron ore mining of northern Sweden.

To understand sustainability in iron ore extraction beyond the relatively small amounts mined in Sweden, further tracing of iron ore supplies will be carried out by the PhD student. This will determine global resource flows from mines across Global South settings (primarily Brazil, India or South Africa). Using ethnographic methods the project will seek to enquire into how different groups in the identified mining locations across Global South and Global North understand sustainability beyond low carbon emissions. The result is an improved understanding of the present mixing of conventional fossil fuel-dependent iron ore with new, hi-tech fossil-free ore in the automotive sector.

The PhD project will be funded by the Department of Urban and Rural Development, and benefit from a vibrant and collegial research environment.


Located in Uppsala for 4 years. Starting date according to agreement.

Department of Urban and Rural Development

The Department of Urban and Rural Development offers a strong social science research environment in rural development, environmental communication, landscape architecture and agrarian history. Rural Development focuses on the specific conditions of rural areas linked to regional, national and global change – and development processes. Important research areas are development and rural policy, natural resource and land use; social, political and economic relations; sustainability and migration. Read more about the Division here.