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Home* News and Stories → Pro­per­ty for sale in Recher­chefjord

Pro­per­ty for sale in Recher­chefjord

It is almost temp­ting to wri­te “Spits­ber­gen about to beco­me Chi­ne­se”, but no, that is not the level we are working at here. That would be non­sen­se, alt­hough you might almost have belie­ved it, loo­king at some recent head­lines.

Pro­per­ty in Sval­bard: that’s how it star­ted

We have to go back to the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry for a moment. Spits­ber­gen was no man’s land and com­pa­nies, many small and a few lar­ger ones, came and clai­med rights, thin­king mining would be a way to make a for­tu­ne up north. Most com­pa­nies were far too small and did not have the expe­ri­ence or the funds to start mining at indus­tri­al level, but some did, such as John Mun­ro Longyear’s Arc­tic Coal Com­pa­ny which foun­ded Lon­gye­ar­by­en (then known as Lon­gyear City) in 1906.

Recherchefjord

60 sqa­re km of pro­per­ty are now on offer in Recher­chefjord – for 300 mil­li­on Euro.

Many of the small com­pa­nies quick­ly ran out of money, and some of them sold their claims to others. Many of the claims were over­lap­ping. It took years to sort this mess out, a pro­cess that was requi­red to be finis­hed befo­re the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty could enter force in 1925.

Com­pa­nies con­tin­ued to sell their various pro­per­ties also after 1925, and so did suc­ces­sors and heirs. Often it had beco­me clear that the­re would never be any mining or other kind of land use befo­re land or claims would be sold. Usual­ly the Nor­we­gi­an sta­te secu­red pro­per­ties and mining rights to get Svalbard’s land are­as under con­trol. By now, 99 % of Svalbard’s ground are owned by the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment. The Rus­si­an sta­te-owned mining com­pa­ny Trust Arc­ti­cu­gol owns some smal­ler land are­as in Isfjord (Barents­burg, Colesdalen/Grumant, Pyra­mi­den, Erd­mann­flya) – and then the­re is Kul­spids AS, one of many com­pa­nies that were foun­ded in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry to explo­re and exploit mine­ral resour­ces.

Kul­spids AS

Kul­spids AS secu­red a land area of 60 squa­re kilo­me­t­res in inner Recher­chefjord. Asbes­tos is one mine­ral found in the area and mining was attempt­ed, but not suc­cessful. Kul­spids AS still exists and still owns the pro­per­ty, which today’s owners of the com­pa­ny now want to turn into money, as was initi­al­ly repor­ted by Bloom­berg. The sto­ry was quick­ly picked up by various Nor­we­gi­an media inclu­ding NRK.

“All bidders wel­co­me” is the seller’s mes­sa­ge, addres­sing indi­vi­du­als, com­pa­nies and govern­ments ali­ke. It is poin­ted out that also govern­ments such as the ones in Chi­na or Rus­sia could buy the pro­per­ty, if a pri­ce could only be agreed on. And of cour­se the geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce of arc­tic are­as in gene­ral is also high­ligh­ted by Kul­spids AS repre­sen­ta­ti­ve.

Geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce – or not

Wha­te­ver the geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce actual­ly might include is, hower, unclear: any new owner, as well as the cur­rent one, has to com­ply with the Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal law and the Spits­ber­gen (Sval­bard) Trea­ty. This makes pret­ty much any kind of land use impos­si­ble. No future owner, inclu­ding the govern­ment of Chi­na (or Rus­sia, for that sake) would legal­ly be able to build a hotel, a har­bour, a rese­arch sta­ti­on, a mine or a mili­ta­ry base. Nobo­dy would even legal­ly be able to dri­ve a snow mobi­le wit­hout spe­cial per­mis­si­on from Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties, which would be dif­fi­cult to get. The geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce of the pro­per­ty bey­ond pres­ti­ge is hence doubtful.

Con­side­ring the abo­ve, rese­ar­cher Andre­as Øst­ha­gen of the Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen Insti­tu­te recom­mends the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment to remain calm and not make a very expen­si­ve panic purcha­se, accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten. The mini­mum bid is set at the proud amount of 3.5 bil­li­on (yes, bil­li­on!) Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner – curr­ent­ly about 300 mil­li­on Euro. For com­pa­ri­son: at the latest com­pa­ra­ble trans­fer in 2014, when a lar­ge pro­per­ty on the north side of Advent­fjord was sold, the pri­ce was near one tenth of today’s mini­mum bid. Even then, the pri­ce was con­tro­ver­si­al – and mining or other land use would at least in theo­ry have been pos­si­ble, con­side­ring the pro­per­ty sold in 2014 was not part of any natio­nal park or other spe­ci­al­ly pro­tec­ted area.

Hence, it seems fair to assu­me that poin­ting at any geo­po­li­ti­cal or other importance of the pro­per­ty in Recher­chefjord or at poten­ti­al buy­ers such as Chi­na pri­ma­ri­ly ser­ve as a tool to push the pri­ce and to increase the pres­su­re on the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment to secu­re the land for Nor­way. Not­hing is so far known about any buy­ers actual­ly being inte­res­ted or any serious bids.

Mean­while, a spo­kesper­son of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment said that the govern­ment had actual­ly made an offer in the past which was con­side­red gene­rous con­side­ring that the pro­per­ty does not come with any land use poten­ti­al. The offer was tur­ned down by Kul­spids AS. It was also said that becau­se of an old con­tract bet­ween the govern­ment and Kul­spids AS, the pro­per­ty can not be sold wit­hout govern­ment appr­oval.

In any case, this is the very last major land area in Sval­bard still in pri­va­te hands. Once it is sold, the time of major pro­per­ties chan­ging from one owner to ano­ther will be over. The­re are very few other, small pri­va­te pro­per­ties in Sval­bard. In tho­se cases whe­re for exam­p­le a pri­va­te per­son owns a house in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the pro­per­ty as such does not include the land the house is stan­ding on – this is alre­a­dy govern­ment pro­per­ty.

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last modification: 2024-05-15 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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