fb  Spitsbergen Panoramas - 360-degree panoramas  de  en  nb  Spitsbergen Shop  
pfeil THE Spitsbergen guidebook pfeil
Home → February, 2020

Monthly Archives: February 2020 − News & Stories

Svea Nord is histo­ry

Svea Nord was the lar­gest coal mine ever in Spits­ber­gen. It belon­ged to the mining com­plex of Sveagru­va in Van Mijenfjord, tog­e­ther with the sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va its­elf, the har­bour faci­li­ties at Kapp Ams­ter­dam and the mine in Lun­ckef­jel­let.

The mine was ope­ned in 2001. A coal seam thic­k­ness of up to 6 met­res allo­wed an annu­al pro­duc­tion of 3 mil­li­on tons. Not record­brea­king on a glo­bal sca­le, but the lar­gest amount that was ever achie­ved in any mine in Spits­ber­gen. This put the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni in a good eco­no­mic­al situa­ti­on for some years around 2008.

Svea Nord coal mine

The longwall-method could be used very eco­no­mic­al­ly in Svea Nord with a coal thic­k­ness of 4-6 met­res.

Then, pri­ces on the world mar­kest went downhill and the eco­no­mic­al situa­ti­on beca­me dif­fi­cult for the coal mines in Spits­ber­gen. Job cuts and a strugg­le for fun­ding fur­ther mining ope­ra­ti­ons were the the­me of the day in 2013 and fol­lo­wing years. The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment, owner of Store Nor­ske, hel­ped initi­al­ly out but then deci­ded in 2015 to put mining in Sveagru­va on hold. In 2017 the decis­i­on fol­lo­wed to aban­don all mining acti­vi­ties the­re altog­e­ther, inclu­ding a rem­oval of the mines and the sett­le­ment – a uni­que step in the histo­ry of Spits­ber­gen.

The mine in Lun­ckef­jel­let was clo­sed alre­a­dy in ear­ly 2019. This mine was rea­dy for pro­duc­ti­ve ope­ra­ti­on in 2013, but the pro­duc­ti­ve stage was never actual­ly rea­ched in Lun­ckef­jel­let.

Svea Nord

Tun­nel in Svea Nord, with mining equip­ment rea­dy to be remo­ved befo­re the mine is clo­sed.

Now the lar­ge mine of Svea Nord is about to be clo­sed. A lot of mate­ri­als and equip­ment have been remo­ved and will be ship­ped out. Accor­ding to the plan, Svea Nord will be clo­sed for good in March 2020.

At the same time, the clean-up of the sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va is making pro­gress. Apart from a few old arte­facts that are pro­tec­ted as part of the his­to­ri­cal heri­ta­ge of the area, ever­y­thing is sup­po­sed to be remo­ved. In the end, only careful obser­vers should be able to see that peo­p­le lived here for deca­des and that this area was the site of indus­tri­al mining for almost a cen­tu­ry. But the­re is still a way to go. Clo­sing Svea Nord is a signi­fi­cant step within this pro­cess, and it is quite uni­que in the con­text of arc­tic mining: in the 20th cen­tu­ry, it was com­mon just to lea­ve things just whe­re they were unless they were valuable enough to remo­ve them.

Svea Nord coal

The very last pie­ces of coal that have left Svea Nord will ser­ve sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses. Geo­lo­gist Mal­te Joch­mann and mining engi­neer Kris­tin Løvø at work (Decem­ber 2019).

In Decem­ber 2019, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit Svea Nord tog­e­ther with a team of geo­lo­gists. While they were taking sma­p­les, I had the chan­ce to do some pho­to­gra­phy, cap­tu­ring some impres­si­ons of Spitsbergen’s lar­gest coal mine. As a result, I have crea­ted a page with pho­to gal­le­ries and pan­ora­mas of Svea Nord to make it at least vir­tual­ly acces­si­ble for ever­y­bo­dy while the mine is phy­si­cal­ly clo­sed and inac­ces­si­ble fore­ver. The­re is actual­ly a set of seve­ral pages, also inclu­ding Sveagru­va (sett­le­ment), Lun­ckef­jel­let (mine) and Kapp Ams­ter­dam (har­bour). They are all acces­si­ble through an over­view page Svea area (click here).

Ava­lan­che acci­dent at Fri­dt­jov­breen: two per­sons dead

Two peo­p­le, both of Ger­man natio­na­li­ty, were kil­led during an ava­lan­che acci­dent at Fri­dt­jov­breen, a gla­cier south of Barents­burg. Both were tra­vel­ling as part of a gui­ded group of the Arc­tic Tra­vel Com­pa­ny in Barents­burg. When Nor­we­gi­an res­cue forces arri­ved on the sce­ne, they could only decla­re both per­sons dead.


The Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties are informing the rela­ti­ves of the vic­tims and will inves­ti­ga­te the acci­dent. The com­mu­ni­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en has estab­lished a cri­sis team to help all peo­p­le in Barents­burg and Lon­gye­ar­by­en who might be in need.

Polar bear weig­hed only 62 kg

The polar bear that died in late Janu­ary during trans­por­ta­ti­on in a heli­c­op­ter weig­hed only 62 kg as first results of the post mor­tem reve­a­led. This means that the bear must eit­her have been very small or extre­me­ly thin. Even a small, sub-adult fema­le should have more than 100 kg. Even a second year cub should weigh signi­fi­cant­ly more than 60 kg, and it should still be with its mother then. A first year cub would not be able to sur­vi­ve on its own, wit­hout the mother.

Also chan­ces for sur­vi­val for a (sub)adult polar bear with a weight of only 62 kg would have been doubtful at best.

This is curr­ent­ly, howe­ver, spe­cu­la­ti­on. Fur­ther details of the post mor­tem, which will hop­eful­ly enable spe­cia­lists to draw con­clu­si­ons regar­ding the cau­se of death, will only be available in seve­ral weeks.

Young polar bear

Young polar bear tog­e­ther with its mother. The litt­le bear was about 20 months old at the time the pic­tu­re was taken and its weight was cer­tain­ly well abo­ve 60 kg.

The­re is also new infor­ma­ti­on regar­ding the polar bear visits to Lon­gye­ar­by­en in late Decem­ber: DNA ana­ly­sis of various samples reve­a­led that it were at least two indi­vi­du­als who came clo­se to and into the sett­le­ment then.

100 years Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty

The Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty was signed exact­ly 100 years ago, on 09 Febru­ary 1920, in Ver­sailles. The con­tract secu­red suver­eni­ty over the Spits­ber­gen islands but includes seve­ral limi­ta­ti­ons. Click here to read more about the trea­ty its­elf on the page dedi­ca­ted to the trea­ty within this web­site.

Spitzbergenvertrag: Wedel Jarlsberg, Paris 1920

Fre­d­rik Wedel Jarls­berg, Nor­we­gi­an ambassa­dor in Paris,
signs the trea­ty on 09 Febru­ary 1920 in Ver­sailles.

The Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty was nego­tia­ted over seve­ral months in Ver­sailles in 1919. Fre­d­rik Wedel Jarls­berg was lea­ding the nego­tia­ti­ons on behalf of Nor­way, but others inclu­ding Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen had been part of the poli­ti­cal work that had paved the way to the trea­ty over years.

Today, the trea­ty is often refer­red to as the Sval­bard Trea­ty, but the ori­gi­nal trea­ty text does not include the word “Sval­bard” at all.

Over­lap­ping pri­va­te ter­ri­to­ri­al by a num­ber of mining com­pa­nies from various count­ries had to be sor­ted befo­re the trea­ty could enter force. This hap­pen­ed final­ly on 14 August 1925, when the “Sval­bard law” (Sval­bard­l­oven) came into force in Nor­way, tur­ning the trea­ty into natio­nal law.

The trea­ty is still in force. The­re are some dis­pu­tes regar­ding the use of mari­ne resour­ces (fishing, oil, gas, other mine­ral resour­ces) out­side the 12 mile zone, but within the 200 mile zone around Sval­bard. The con­cept of the­se zones was defi­ned much later and they were not part of the trea­ty, which hence lea­ves room for dif­fe­rent inter­pre­ta­ti­ons, depen­ding on whom you ask. Nor­way claims that the prin­ci­ple of non­dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on (equal rights for ever­y­bo­dy regard­less of natio­na­li­ty) is valid only within the 12-mile zone, but claims exclu­si­ve rights in the 200-mile eco­no­mic­al zone (out­side the 12-mile zone). Other count­ries do not agree, name­ly Lat­via which was up to now the last coun­try that ente­red the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty on 13 June 2016 (a few months after North Korea) and Rus­sia. Russia’s minis­try of for­eign affairs has just recent­ly again released a press note clai­ming to be unhap­py about rest­ric­tions of Rus­si­an acti­vi­ties in Spits­ber­gen and expects Nor­way to accept bila­te­ral talks, some­thing that Nor­way has never accept­ed in the past.

Spitzbergenvertrag: Mitgliedsländer

Signa­to­ry count­ries in the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty.

Today, 100 years after the trea­ty was signed in Paris on 09 Febru­ary 1920, a num­ber of events and lec­tures are dedi­ca­ted to the trea­ty in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Nor­way and other count­ries.


News-Listing live generated at 2024/May/20 at 15:23:31 Uhr (GMT+1)