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Mine 3

360° panoramas of Longyearbyen's coal mining museum

There is a number of coal mines near Longyearbyen, known by numbers ranging from 1 to 7. Some of them even have “a” and “b” version (not referring to quality, but to different parts of the same general mining complex) and of course every mine has air pits, waste dump exits and so on and so forth. In short, the coal mining landscape near Longyearbyen is quite complex and confusing.

The first mine that was built and used was mine 1 above the church. Today, mine 7 in Adventdalen is the only mine near Longyearbyen which is still in use, as the only Norwegian coal mine in Spitsbergen.

One of the historical mines is mine 3, situated on the north slope of Platåberg, behind the airport. Investigations of the coal seams there were made alreading during the “american times” of Longyearbyen (then Longyear City), from 1906 to 1916. That is not surprising, as the location is close to Hotellneset, which was the commonly used landing site in the earliest 20th century and probably the place where John Munro Longyear went ashore during is first visit with a cruise ship in 1901.

But it was not earlier than 1969 that the mining company Norwegian Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK) started to prepare mine 3 for coal production. It was in productive operation from 1971 to 1996. Mine 3 had a bit of a reputation amongst miners because the thickness of the coal seam was mostly between 80 and 90 centimetres – so the tunnel was no higher than that, and sometimes it was as little as 60 centimetres! Very difficult working conditions and certainly not for the claustrophobic!

The most productive year was 1981 with a total of 321,000 tons, but usually the annual production was somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 tons per year.

SNSK enabled the first tourist visits in 1990. In spring 1996, equipment that could be used elsewhere was moved to Sveagruva, where Norwegian coal mining in Spitsbergen had some good years to come in Svea Nord with a coal seam that was up to 6 metres thick in places. Mining operations finally ceased in mine 3 in November 1996. Until then, the mine comprised a network of good 50 kilometres of tunnels in an area of a good 7 square kilometers! The rock dump in Bjørndalen belongs, by the way, also to mine 3.

Mine 3 was, however, kept open for tourists until the SNSK management decided to stop also this operation out of general safety considerations. Later, mine 3 was prepared for renewed tourist visits and now it is open again for visitors who come with a guided group, offering tourists a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of coal mining, the economy that shaped all settlements in Spitsbergen during a whole century.

Mine 3 – Pano 1 (tunnel)

Mine 3 – Pano 2 (tunnel)

Mine 3 – Panos 2019

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last modification: 2020-01-17 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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