Newsletter: A week in the light of mining

Norut drone of the Northern Research Institute in Norway taking off in the Arctic
Norut drone of the Northern Research Institute in Norway taking off in the Arctic. (Source: Courtesy of Northern Research Institute in Norway)

The past week has been one in the light of mining. For the first time in very many years, a new mine is to start operating in Norway. Nussir will extract copper from Kvalsund mountains, and following the announcement of its operation license, the Norwegian public debate has seen a veritable clash between praise and disgust.

I myself have been traveling between Norwegian mining towns lately. First to Kirkenes, where once again there are plans about resuming activities in the Sydvaranger mine. If that were to happen, Northern Norway’s first and proud union with the suitable name ‘The Rock of the Nordics’ will have new tasks coming up.

Down with the throne
The Union was established as early as in September 1906, following major demonstrations headed by MP Adam Egede Nissen from Vardø. Even back then, Northern Norway was an international melting pot. Workers at the iron mine at Bjørnevatn [Bear Lake] outside Kirkenes were a mix of Norwegian, Swedes, Finns, Russians and Sami.

Despite frequent and at times long-lasting interruptions to mining, the Rock of the Nordics has carried its banner proudly through all these years. The banner under which the union has marched throughout its history has a precise and clear message:

“Down with the throne, the altar, the rule of money”

From Kirkenes, where I also wrote an editorial about ‘The Chinese Dilemma’, about the relationship between Norway, China and Russia, I moved on to the iron mine town of Mo i Rana. At Mo, mining is in full swing under the name of Rana Gruber.

Crypto mining at Mo
In addition, Mo Industry Park has started a new and controversial form of ‘mining. In cooperation with the international company Bitfury, the industry park is to offer significant amounts of hydroelectric power for so-called cryptomining. That is controversial, to say the least. On Thursday, I participated in a debate on Norwegian broadcaster NRK2, with live transmission from Mo i Rana. We discussed the issue of whether crypto currencies with their technology are future oriented or if they are just a speculative flop. To put it mildly, we did not agree in the end.

Nor is there agreement around the Kvalsund mountains mining that has now been licensed. Industry is and will remain controversial and the division runs within most groups rather than between them. The Sami have conflicting interests, nor do environmental organizations agree with one another. The protests against establishing industrial jobs in the High North are particularly loud in the south.

The past week has also offered the following stories:
Canada and Russia are looking to deploy surveillance drones in the Arctic
Security experts: The World is facing a new era of significant power struggles
Norwegian-Russian cooperation against plastic pollution in the Barents Sea
Russia's Northern Sea Route sees record-high cargo volume in 2018

Have a great weekend!
Arne O. Holm
and High North News