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Monthly Archives: November 2009 − News & Stories


Tough times in Bar­ents­burg

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.

Tough times in Barentsburg

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (46/2009)

Win­te­ring are­as of ptar­mi­gans

The ptar­mi­gan is the only bird that stays in Spits­ber­gen year-round. Sci­en­tists have now equip­ped some ptar­mi­gans with satel­li­te tra­ckers to fol­low them digi­tal­ly through the polar night. So far, they seem to remain in the gene­ral area, migra­ting local­ly while sear­ching for food. The Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te is publi­shing and updating the results Backhere.

Ptar­mi­gans in Spits­ber­gen

Wintering areas of ptarmigans

Source: Nor­we­gi­sches Polar­in­sti­tut

Dan­ger of ali­en plant spe­ci­es

Intro­du­ced plant and ani­mal spe­ci­es can crea­te eco­lo­gi­cal desas­ters. Ali­en spe­ci­es have alrea­dy been found in many parts of the polar regi­ons, inclu­ding Ant­arc­ti­ca. In more recent times, the hig­hest risk of intro­duc­tion is use of con­ta­mi­na­ted boots that have been used else­whe­re, pos­si­b­ly in cli­ma­ti­cal­ly com­pa­ra­ble high moun­tain or polar are­as.

In 2008, sci­en­tists have tes­ted boots of 260 visi­tors at the air­port in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and found 500 moss frag­ments and 1000 seeds of 52 plant spe­ci­es, inclu­ding many birch seeds.

Not just a rub­ber boot, but a poten­ti­al­ly dan­ge­rous source of con­ta­mi­na­ti­on

Danger of alien plant species - Buchananhalvoya

Source: UNIS

CO2-sto­rage in Advent­da­len

The idea to run Spits­ber­gen “car­bon-free” is based on CCS: cap­tu­ring and con­se­quent sto­rage of car­bon dioxi­de in sand­stone lay­ers in the ground. After three sci­en­ti­fic dril­lings had to be abor­ted due to tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, a fourth one has suc­cess­ful­ly reached pro­mi­sing sand­stone lay­ers at a depth of up to 870 metres. Less than 1000 metres that had been hoped for, but enough in case fur­ther tes­ting shows the lay­ers to be capa­ble of long-term sto­rage of CO2-emis­si­ons from, for examp­le, Longyearbyen’s coal power plant.

Tech­ni­ques thus deve­lo­ped by UNIS (the uni­ver­si­ty in Lon­gyear­ben) might in the future be used else­whe­re in the world.

Suc­cess­ful: dril­ling pro­ject near the old airstrip in Advent­da­len

CO2-storage in Adventdalen

Source: Unis

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