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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).

last modification: 2020-02-26 · copyright: Rolf Stange