BarentsObserver has compiled a list of on-going and planned industrial and infrastructure investment in the Barents Region. The overview is made with input from a study by the University of Oulu and Oulu and Lapland Chambers of Commerce, reported by YLE earlier this autumn.
<> See video from the Sydvaranger iron ore mine in eastern Finnmark, Norway.
The following overview shows that the Barents Region is entering the initial phase of an unprecedented boom. Major investment plans have been prepared surprisingly quickly over the last years.
The Chambers of Commerce in northern Finland have added all know investment plans that are expected to come over the next decade in the Barents Region. Some of the investments have already started, while others are in line soon.
The Finnish overview is added to the list of known industrial and infrastructure investments in the region that BarentsObserver has reported over the last few years.
More than €114 billion will be invested in industrial development in the Barents Region over the next decade.
In northern Finland, the investments are €25,6 billion, while in northern Sweden investments are calculated to be €17,5 billion. Northern Norway has the lowest investments among the Barents Region countries, €9,5 billion, while Russia’s Kola Peninsula is on the top with planned investments of €62 billion.
In addition to the calculations mentioned in the study, there are other plans that could make the total sum even higher than the €114,6 billion estimation. Such plans include a new aluminium plant in Northern Norway and possible a nuclear power plant near Oulu in Finland. Also, much of the Norwegian oil- and gas investments related to the Norwegian- and Barents Seas are expected to come after 2020.
The biggest challenge for the Barents Region now is public founded infrastructure. Regional and national public funding is limited for investments into roads, ports and el-transmission. Therefore, strong priorities much be made.
Iron-ore is not the only mineral to be extracted. Norilsk-Nickel is heavily investing in the nickel and copper mines in Zapolyarny on the Kola Peninsula. Also, a €400 million investment in a new nickel and copper mine near Sodankylä in Finnish Lapland is underway. In Kvalsund in Noway’s Finnmark region, an abandoned copper mine could be reopened.
Energy sector The energy sector investments include the planed nuclear power plant just south of Oulu, while replacement of Kola nuclear power plant is likely not to come within this decade. Wind-mill parks are coming along the coast of Northern Norway and with the new – to be Europe’s largest – near Piteå in northern Sweden.
Bio-fuel production is another growing sector both in the northern parts of Sweden and Finland.
However, the investments in new energy are also linked with the development of additional el-transmission systems, both national and across the borders in the Barents Region. Both Norway and Finland have plans to expand their el-transmission grid with northern Russia.
Expanding the national transmission capacity for electricity between northern and southern Norway is considered to be of highest priority in order to utilize the potential in increased el-production in the north.
Port developments Port development will come especially in the northern part of Bothnia including both Oulu and Norbotten regions. The largest port development is however to come in Murmansk, Russia’s most important port to ice-free waters.
Most of the minerals to be extracted from the new mines in the Barents Region are heading to China, and shortcuts in transport via the Northern Sea Route save transportation costs. In other words; the Barents Region is turning away from being an outpost in Europe to becoming a fast economical developing region in the ship lane to the important markets in Asia.
Access to the ports is also why investments in new railway lines are coming, both towards the Gulf of Bothnia and the Arctic Oceans. Both Finland and Russia have invested heavily into electrification of existing railways in the Barents Region and more could come.
New railroad plans include railroads north of Rovaniemi in Finland, first to Sodankylä, maybe later all the way to the Barents Sea port of Kirkenes in Norway. Another new railroad could come from Kolari in Lapland to Skibotn in Troms. Upgrading of the railroad from Kolari to the Gulf of Bothnia is another option.
In Sweden, the new high-speed Bothnia railway was opened to Umeå in August this year. An extension of the line further north is planned for the 270 km distance from Umeå to Luleå. The preliminary decision to build it has been made and detailed planning is now underway.
The projected Belkomur railway line between the Republic of Komi and Arkhangelsk will be financed by the Russian Investment Fund, a federal investment commission concluded last year. The line will be the single-largest railroad investment in the Barents Region before 2020.
The single-largest investment in the Barents Region will be the development of the Shtokman natural gas field in the Barents Sea and the landing infrastructure in Teriberka north of Murmansk. Several tens of billion Euros could be invested in what will be the largest industrial development north of the Arctic Circle ever in history.
In the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea, Snøhvit gas field and the attached LNG-plant at Melkøya in Finnmark is the only operational field. Another field, the Goliat oil field is currently under development and production is expected to start in 2013.