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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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