Cleaning up after coalmining at Svalbard appears to become significantly more expensive than previously assumed, the Norwegian Minister of Trade, Industry and Fish writes in a letter to the parliament.
In the letter to Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, which High North News has read, Minister of Trade, Industry and Fish, Monica Mæland, writes: "I would hereby like to inform the committee that the department through this dialogue [with the coalmining company, ed.] recently received new information from the company, indicating that the costs related to cleaning up the Svea and Lunckefjell mines may be significantly higher than what is evident in the proposed budget."
In the proposed state budget for 2018, in which the government initiates closing down activities in the two mines mentioned, a total of NOK 141 million were proposed for cleaning up after the coalmining activities.
Further estimates were 83 million for 2019 and 87 million for 2020. The clean-up was meant to last for three to four years.
Mæland refers to there being 'significant insecurity' related to the former estimates, and that the estimates in the proposed budget are built on a report that the coalmining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani received from an external consulting company, as well as on considerations from the board of the SNSK from last June.
Managing Director of SNSK, Wenche Ravlo, points out to HNN that the entire clean-up process after coalmining is a unique and rather unpredictable project.
- Noone has ever demobilised an entire community in the Arctic like this before, nor do we know what requirements the environmental authorities will present before the clean-up process starts. Remember; everything is to be eradicated. We must also take weather and seasonal changes into account. All this represents factors that no-one can really calculate or predict.
Ravlo refuses to say anything about what the new figures are, however, she confirms the minister’s term ‘significant amounts’.
- There are still so many factors of insecurity here that it is almost impossible to say anything specific. There are framework conditions that we do not know yet, and that makes it hard to calculate a cost estimate, Wenche Ravlo says.
She believes the cleaning up may take some time longer than what the original estimates suggested.
- We are aiming for a three-year period, however, it appears it may be more near four years. Nevertheless, this is something we have worked hard on since the presentation of the state budget, and we will keep doing that. Though it is important to emphasize that insecurity always will surround estimates, simply because there are many factors that we simply cannot control, the SNSK Director says in closing.
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