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Daily Archives: 26. 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).

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