The 400 inhabitants of the Russian mining settlement Barentsburg have to live with difficult work- and general conditions. After a fire in the mine in early 2008, when 2 people lost their lives, mining was stopped for a while; currently, 30,000 tons per year are mined to keep the local power plant running. Full production on a level of 120,000 tons per year, still low on a global scale, will not come before summer 2010 – one year later than originally hoped for. A miner has now complained through the press about bad conditions, such as insufficient work power and equipment and, as a result of this, more or less regularly occuring dangerous situations. Also the wages of about one Dollar per hour are not exactly reason for happiness.
The leadership of the mining Company Trust Arktikugol does not show any understanding for the complaints.
In November 2009, Trust Arktikugol has lost a Norwegian court case regarding use of helicopters in Spitsbergen. Norwegian authorities have denied the Russians to use helicopters for other purposes than those directly connected to the mining activities of Trust Arktikugol. This is, in practice, restricted to transport of personell between Longyearben and Barentsburg. The Russians want to offer commercial flights for scientists and tourists, in the case of the latter at least to offer transportation from Longyearben to Barentsburg also during the winter. They refer to the Spitsbergen Treaty, which makes clear that all signatory powers and their citizens have equal rights for commercial activities in Spitsbergen.
Mining in Barentsburg: Currently a diffcult affair.
Source: Svalbardposten (46/2009)