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Home → December, 2012

Monthly Archives: December 2012 − News & Stories


Mer­ry Christ­mas!

… and a hap­py new year!

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Envi­ron­men­tal toxins: new com­pounds found in Spits­ber­gen

A group of envi­ron­men­tal toxins that is new to the Arc­tic has recent­ly been tra­ced down in Spits­ber­gen. The so-cal­led sil­ox­ans are part of many cos­me­tics such as deodo­rants and others. Sil­ox­ans are very vola­ti­le, which means they can escape into the air very easi­ly and can then be trans­por­ted over lar­ge distances even to the remo­test part of the glo­be. This in its­elf is enough reason for con­cern.

In con­trast to known envi­ron­men­tal toxins such as PCB’s, sil­ox­ans are not quick­ly absor­bed and incor­po­ra­ted in the food chain, but tend to stay lon­ger in the atmo­sphe­re. The ques­ti­on if this is good or bad remains to be ans­we­red. It may increase the chan­ce of the com­pounds being bro­ken down natu­ral­ly, which hap­pens under the influence of sun­light during the sum­mer, befo­re they can do harm to orga­nisms. The con­cen­tra­ti­on of sil­ox­ans near 1 nano­gram per cubic met­re of air seems to be low, but is up to 1000 times hig­her than for PCB’s, for exam­p­le, which are known to have nega­ti­ve effects on spe­ci­es such as Polar bears and Glau­cous gulls.

The envi­ron­men­tal con­se­quence of sil­ox­ans still needs to be inves­ti­ga­ted. Detec­ting them in the envi­ron­ment is tech­ni­cal­ly dif­fi­cult, which is one reason why they have been found only recent­ly in air samples from the Arc­tic. The samples were taken on Zep­pe­lin­fjel­let near Ny Åle­sund, Spits­ber­gen.

The air che­mis­try sta­ti­on on Zep­pe­lin­fjel­let near Ny Åle­sund.

Zeppelinfjellet, Ny Ålesund.

Source: Forskning.no

Coal mining in Spits­ber­gen: defi­ci­te in 2012

The Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in Spits­ber­gen is expec­ted to yield a defi­ci­te in 2012: The mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske has announ­ced to be in the red during the ongo­ing year on a sca­le that the com­pa­ny has not seen sin­ce the ope­ning of the then new mine Svea Nord 12 years ago. Today, the main reason is a seve­ral months long pro­duc­tion stop in Svea, whe­re only mar­gi­nal parts of the coal are left: the qua­li­ty is on the decrease, the pro­por­ti­on of stones within the coal is going up, making a cos­t­ly gra­ding plant neces­sa­ry.

When the best parts of the coal seams in Svea Nord whe­re mined around 2003, the com­pa­ny would pro­du­ce as much as 12,854 tons per year and employee. In 2011, this value was down to 3,922 tons. The low coal pri­ces on the world mar­ket con­tri­bu­te to the dif­fi­cult situa­ti­on. The com­pa­ny plans to redu­ce the num­ber of employees from curr­ent­ly 380, but wants to achie­ve this wit­hout dis­mis­sals.

In recent years, Store Nor­ske lea­ders have recei­ved cri­ti­zism for focus­sing on lawsuits with sub­con­trac­tors and for­mer direc­tor Robert Her­man­sen, who was then con­vic­ted and is curr­ent­ly in pri­son, but nevert­hel­ess enjoys popu­la­ri­ty, rather than mining its­elf. Curr­ent­ly, Store Nor­ske is pre­pa­ring a new mine at Lun­ckef­jel­let, north of Sveagru­va, for mining. On the long term, the com­pa­ny aims at new mines in untouch­ed are­as, pos­si­bly at the moun­tain Ispal­len south of Sveagru­va or Ope­raf­jel­let east of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in Spits­ber­gen: eco­no­mic­al­ly curr­ent­ly facing dark times.

Norwegian coal mining, Spitsbergen.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (4912)

SAR capa­ci­ties in Spits­ber­gen: 2 lar­ge heli­c­op­ters from 2014

The Nor­we­gi­an SAR (search and res­cue) ser­vices in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will have two lar­ge Super­pu­ma heli­c­op­ters at their dis­po­sal from 2014. Curr­ent­ly, the­re is one Super­pu­ma and a smal­ler heli­c­op­ter. A Super­pu­ma can car­ry up to 18 per­sons.

Until now, the­se heli­c­op­ters have been ope­ra­ted by the pri­va­te­ly owned com­pa­ny Air­lift AS, but in the future the con­tract will go to ano­ther Nor­we­gi­an com­pa­ny, Luft­trans­port AS. The Sys­sel­man­nen (gover­nor) is accor­din­gly not the owner of the heli­c­op­ters, but has lar­ge­ly con­trol over their use for offi­ci­al and SAR pur­po­ses.

Streng­thening the SAR capa­ci­ties in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will not only bene­fit locals, sci­en­tists, tou­rists and crews of fishing ves­sels, but poten­ti­al­ly also others in “neigh­bou­ring” regi­ons: in recent years, res­cue ope­ra­ti­ons from Lon­gye­ar­by­en rea­ched as far as north Green­land and Franz Josef Land.

Super­pu­ma-helocp­ter in Spits­ber­gen (here during an exer­cise).

SAR capacities in Spitsbergen - Rescue helicopter, Spitsbergen.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: power sta­ti­on on fire

Fri­day (7.12.) at 6.15 a.m., the fire alarm went in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, when a fire bro­ke out in the coal power plant. The plant is taken off the net and elec­tri­ci­ty is sup­pli­ed from the reser­ve plant, while the fire bri­ga­de is doing their work.

A com­ple­te refur­bish­ment of the coal power plant has been a mat­ter of poli­ti­cal deba­te for some time. The small arc­tic town is enti­re­ly depen­dent of a relia­ble sup­p­ly with both elec­tri­ci­ty and com­mu­ni­ty hea­ting. A las­ting real black­out would soon result in an evacua­ti­on of the popu­la­ti­on.

Amend­ment: the fire was under con­trol within a few hours. The ext­ent of dama­ge was still unknown at the time of wri­ting.

The coal power plant in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Power plant, Longyearbyen.

Source: Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re

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