OSLO – Norway’s state-owned coal company will close its last mine in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago in 2023, it said on Thursday, causing the loss of 80 jobs and ending 120 years of exploitation.
While Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani (SNSK) has shut its major mines in the islands over the past two decades, it had kept the smaller Mine 7 open, primarily to ensure supplies to a local coal-fired power plant, as well as some exports.
The Arctic islands are warming faster than almost anywhere on Earth, highlighting the risks to fragile ecosystems from climate change, and Norway aims to cut its overall emissions, although it also remains a major oil and gas producer.
Svalbard’s main settlement will temporarily switch its energy source to diesel in 2023 before establishing a permanent renewable electricity supply, negating the need for a local coal supply, SNSK said.
“Now that the contract to supply the power plant has been terminated there will no longer be a basis for operating the mine,” Chief Executive Morten Dyrstad said in a statement.
In the meantime however, Mine 7 will increase its output to a rate of 125,000 tonnes per year from the current 90,000 tonnes, taking advantage of high global prices to boost exports for the remaining two years.
But the volumes are small compared to SNSK‘s historical output of several million tonnes annually, and the local economy is now primarily geared towards tourism and scientific research.
Located around 700 km (435 miles) north of the European mainland, Svalbard is governed under a 1920 treaty giving Norway sovereignty but allowing all nations signing it to do business there and to exploit its natural resources.
Russia operates a coal mine at its Barentsburg settlement, supplying a local power plant.