State Secretary Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries gives the go-ahead for SNSK to sell new coal from the Svea mine on Svalbard as a part of the liquidation and cleanup process. – Our task is to make this a cost-efficient process, Simonsen says. (Photo Svea: Bjørtvedt/Wikimedia Commons, Simonsen: Arne F. Finne)
State Secretary Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries gives the go-ahead for SNSK to sell new coal from the Svea mine on Svalbard as a part of the liquidation and cleanup process. – Our task is to make this a cost-efficient process, Simonsen says. (Photo Svea: Bjørtvedt/Wikimedia Commons, Simonsen: Arne F. Finne)

Coalmining in Svea, Svalbard still an option


– If extraction and sale of coal from the Svea mine can contribute to a cost-efficient cleanup process, then that is something we will consider.

State Secretary Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries lets the cat out of the bag: If it is possible to sell coal from the Svea mine on Svalbard without its delaying the cleanup process, and if it can contribute to financing the cleanup process itself, then the government may give the go-ahead.

Economic arguments

One year ago, the government pulled a halt to mining in the Svea mine due to financial reasons. Now, however, the government is opening up for a re-opening of the mine due to financial reasons related to the mine’s being liquidated.

– The assignment we [i.e. the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, journ.note] have been tasked with from parliament is cleaning up after mining at the lowest cost possible, or a cleanup process that is to be as cost-efficient as possible. If extracting coal from Svea can contribute to that, then that is something we have to consider, Bjarmann-Simonsen says to High North News.

Sale may finance cleanup

Managing Director of Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani (SNSK, the local coalmining company), Jan Morten Ertsaas, has previously stated that relatively easily accessible coal from Svea may contribute to financing cleanup after mining activities

The prices of coal has soared following the decision to shut down Svea and Lunckefjell mines, a decision based on financial arguments – mining was not profitable. The mines are to be liquidated, and there is to be a cleanup following years and years of mining activities.

Society pays anyway

Without getting a go-ahead from its owner, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, it has been difficult for SNSK to bring extraction and sale of coal into the total calculations for the cleanup, however, Daniel Bjarmann Simonsen now contributes to removing this doubt.

– This [the cleanup, journ.note] is a cost we will have to take anyway, even if we had continued mining operations for another 10-15 years, we would still have had to cover this cleanup cost.

Whether the amount is this or that, there is still no denying the fact that society has to pay for it. And of course, if we can reduce that cost either through selling coal or by other means given the cleanup, then we will try to optimize solutions all the time, in order to keep the costs down.

After all, society pays for it all.

Complicated work spanning several phases

– In other words, SNSK is allowed to investigate sale of coal from Svea as a part of the cleanup package?

– Yes, it is allowed and they can. We will then have an external quality assurance process of the plans that SNSK submits to us, and we will present our recommendations based on that. “The closing plan”, as it is often referred to, is likely to be worked out in several rounds and this is one element of that process, Bjarmann-Simonsen says.

– Some of it will come this fall, and we are looking into different ways of solving it, including splitting the job into phases, so some of it will be coming up next fall too. This is complicated, after all, a large and complex process, and it has not been done before. We have to take the time we need and spend it well, State Secretary Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen says.





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