The Lunckefjellet-mine is part of the coal mining system of Sveagruva, the Norwegian mining settlement in Van Mijenfjord, southeast of Longyearbyen.
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 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.
The sign from the mine entrance at Lunckefjellet during the Spitsbergen Revue on 01 March 2019 in Longyearbyen.
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.
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 (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.
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