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360° panoramas and the story of the mine that was never worked

The Lunck­ef­jel­let-mine is part of the coal mining sys­tem of Sveagru­va, the Nor­we­gi­an mining sett­le­ment in Van Mijen­fjord, sou­the­ast of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Map Lunck­ef­jel­let

The Lunck­ef­jel­let-mine was to be the last Nor­we­gi­an coal mine in Spits­ber­gen. Pro­per inves­ti­ga­ti­ons with the pur­po­se of poten­ti­al mining star­ted around 2005. Out­crops were docu­men­ted and dril­lings were done in a lar­ge num­ber of sites to map the coal seam pro­per­ly.

Mine entrance Lunckefjellet

Mine ent­ran­ce at Lunck­ef­jel­let.

The mine was get­ting rea­dy in 2013 and in the autumn of that year it was sup­po­sed to be han­ded over to the miners of Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK) to start regu­lar pro­duc­tion of coal. But this was not to hap­pen for eco­no­mi­c­al rea­sons. The first miners had to be dis­mis­sed in 2013, and the coal pri­ces on the world mar­kets remai­ned at a level too low to allow pro­fi­ta­ble pro­duc­tion of coal.

Initi­al­ly, the mine was set in stand-by mode to keep it rea­dy in case of rising coal pri­ces, but in late 2017 the Nor­we­gi­an government as the owner of the SNSK made the decisi­on to aban­don the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine and Sveagru­va altog­e­ther. The mines, infra­st­ruc­tu­re and the who­le sett­le­ment will lar­ge­ly be remo­ved as far as pos­si­ble. Only tho­se buil­dings and arte­facts con­si­de­red his­to­ri­cal­ly important will remain and pro­bab­ly a few buil­dings for future use wit­hin sci­ence and pos­si­ble tou­rism.

Road over Mart­hab­reen

It is “only” 12 kilo­me­tres from Sveagru­va to Lunck­ef­jel­let, but that is not just any 12 kilo­me­tres over pro­per public roads. The trip starts with 9 kilo­me­tres through the main tun­nel of the older mine Svea Nord until you see the light of day again on the nort­hern side of the moun­tain Gruvh­jel­men (“Mine hel­met”) – unless it is polar night, then it remains dark … next is a 3 kilo­met­re road over the gla­cier Mart­hab­reen – almost a real, pro­per, win­ter­pro­of road and even with street lights! This road was the only “regu­lar” con­nec­tion bet­ween the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine and the out­side world – or, at least, Sveagru­va. This would have been the trans­port way of the coal, first by lor­ry and then by con­veyor belt through Svea Nord.

Day faci­li­ties Lunck­ef­jel­let

After the trip across the gla­cier you get to the day faci­li­ties of the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine, situa­ted about 650 m abo­ve sea level on the south side of the moun­tain.

The­re is a lar­ge con­veyor sys­tem on the moun­tain wall to trans­port coal from the mine to the lor­ries wai­t­ing to take it over the gla­cier.

A lot of effort was taken to crea­te enough space for several lar­ge sto­rage halls and a buil­ding that houses the mine office and com­mon rooms for the miners.

Now we are about to enter the moun­tain. The sign with the proud inscrip­ti­on “Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Gru­bekom­pa­ni Lunck­ef­jel­let” was remo­ved in Febru­a­ry 2019.

The sign had its final public appearan­ce – and pro­bab­ly its first one at the same time, Lunck­ef­jel­let was never a public place – in ear­ly March 2019 during the “Spits­ber­gen Revue”, a sati­ri­cal show in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and part of a seri­es of events to cele­bra­te the return of the sun. The Spits­ber­gen Revue picks up issu­es of public inte­rest in Spits­ber­gen during the year that has pas­sed. The fate of the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine was obvious­ly one of the things that have caught ever­y­bo­dies atten­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Lunckefjellet-sign, Spitsbergen Revue 2019, Longyearbyen

The sign from the mine ent­ran­ce at Lunck­ef­jel­let during the Spits­ber­gen Revue on 01 March 2019 in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Ent­e­ring Lunck­ef­jel­let

Now we are ent­e­ring the actu­al mine with strong all ter­rain vehi­cles. The tun­nels are just high enough.

Here we are at “tverrs­lag” (smal­ler cross tun­nel) 4 in tun­nel BT4B.

The coal seam and thus also the tun­nels are more or less hori­zon­tal, with minor adjus­t­ments to the geo­lo­gi­cal struc­tu­re and tech­ni­cal requi­re­ments lea­ding to just a litt­le bit of up and down as you can see in the next pan­ora­ma. But you are stay­ing in one almost con­stant level. The­re is no going down over hund­reds of metres as in many other mines else­whe­re in the world.

Sci­ence and fos­sils

At cross tun­nel (tverrs­lag) 6 in tun­nel BT4A, we have reached the fur­thest part of our litt­le tour in Lunck­ef­jel­let. The tun­nel does not go much fur­ther in. Most of the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine was never built and exists just on paper.

Geologe Malte Jochmann im Lunckefjellet

Geo­lo­gist Mal­te Joch­mann at work in the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine in Febru­a­ry 2019, short­ly befo­re the mine was clo­sed.

The­se pho­tos and pan­ora­mas were shot during a working visit of geo­lo­gists to take sam­ples for rese­arch pur­po­ses just befo­re the mine was clo­sed. In this place, the geo­lo­gists found a cross-sec­tion of a tree in the roof that was so well pre­ser­ved that even the year rings could still be seen.

The last pan­ora­ma of this collec­tion was taken in posi­ti­on BT2A tverrs­lag 9. We found beau­ti­ful fos­sils of plants in the roof just a few metres from here.

Plant fossils

Plant fos­sils (roots?) in the roof. Fol­ding rule for sca­le.

The sci­en­tists took may­be 400 kg of coal sam­ples during the two days we spent in Lunck­ef­jel­let. As the mine never ent­e­red pro­duc­ti­ve ope­ra­ti­on, the pro­duc­tion cos­ts per ton of coal, actual­ly spent on tho­se few bits that ever left the moun­tain can well be assu­med to be on a record-brea­king level.

Malte Jochmann, Christopher Marshall, Maria Jensen and Rolf Stange, Lunckefjellet

Geo­lo­gists Mal­te Joch­mann, Chris­to­pher Mar­shall and Maria Jen­sen tog­e­ther with pho­to­gra­pher Rolf Stan­ge in Lunck­ef­jel­let, Febru­a­ry 2019.

To page:  → The Sveagru­va area  → Sveagru­va (sett­le­ment)  → Svea Nord  → Lunck­ef­jel­let  → Kapp Ams­ter­dam


By the way:

New book

my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (3): Die Bären­in­sel und Jan May­en”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!


This and other publishing products of the Spitsbergen publishing house in the Spitsbergen-Shop.

last modification: 2020-01-29 · copyright: Rolf Stange