The SNSK idea about using the sales of new coal from Svea to foot parts of the bill for cleaning up after decades of Svalbard coalmining has come to an abrupt halt. Svea and Lunckefjell mines are shut for good. (Photo: Bjørtvedt/Wikimedia Commons)
The Svea mine as seen from the air. Store Norske wants to reopen the mine to extract coal in parallel with the process of cleaning up, however, the government is reluctant. (Photo: Bjørtvedt, Wikimedia Commons)

Store Norske Wants to Reopen the Svea Mine, Norwegian Government is Hesitant

The Board of Store Norske (the Svalbard coalmining company) has given the go-ahead for a reopening of the Svea mine at Svalbard – for the extraction process to run parallel to the cleanup. The government, however, is reluctant.

Local daily Svalbardposten writes that Managing Director Jan Morten Ertsaas of Store Norske plans for the company to extract up to one million tons of coal from Svea Nord, a job that can take place in parallel with the major cleanup that has been requested by the parliament and the government.

Several good reasons

– There are several good reasons why the coal that is easiest available in the Svea Nord mine should be extracted, Ertsaas says to the newspaper.

He points out that Svea Nord has to be kept open and maintained anyway, as it is needed in order to access the Lunckefjell mine.

Preliminary calculations also show that extracting the remaining coal from the Svea mine, which was shut down in 2016, may be rather profitable.

Mission: Clean-up

The current task of the Store Norske coalmining company is to clean up after mining in Svea and Lunckefjell. According to Ertsaas’ statement to Svalbardposten, they are not planning on a re-match for resuming full-scale operations in Svea.

– That would, as he says, not be in accordance with the task the company has been assigned with by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

The government, represented by then-Minister of Trade Monica Mæland, has repeatedly rejected the idea of reopening the Svea mine.

Reopening was not an issue

The final nail in the coffin came through the 2018 State budget, which stated that further operations in Svea and Lunckefjell mines was not an option, however, that mine 7 were to continue producing a.o. in order to supply the local Longyearbyen power plant with coal.

State Secretary Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen now says to High North News that the decision to liquidate coalmining in Svea and Lunckefjell mines and to start a cleanup in the area remains firm. – The company is currently working on a proposal for how to finish off Svea and Lunckefjell, and the proposal will be subject to quality assurance by an external advisor.

The government is reluctant

The Ministry is focused on the cleanup project being carried out as cost efficiently as possible within the frames given, and is now awaiting the company’s assessment.

– If it appears that a profit can be made from extracting and selling the coal that Store Norske now wants to extract, without it necessarily disturbing or delaying the cleanup, will the Ministry and the government be positive?

– At the present time in this process, I can only say that we are focused on the cleanup project being conducted as cost efficiently as possible within the frames given. We are now awaiting the company’s assessment, says State Secretary Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen.

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