In melting Svalbard, a new coal mine opens

The port of shipment for coal from the Lunckefjell mine is located in the Van Mijenfjord on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago.

Norway is split on coal as the parliament wants the petroleum revenue fund to sell off its stocks in coal-power plants.


State-own mining company Store Norske proudly opened its new Lunckefjell coal mine at Svalbard on Tuesday. The mine will have an estimated production of some two million tons of coal annually. Reserves are estimated to last for five years.

Coal mining on Svalbard is a controversial issue. Environmental groups claim Norway’s coal mining in times of climate changes is a paradox and want to see an end to such mining. Burning of coal is a major source for greenhouse gas. Coal mining is, however, considered important in order to maintain Norway’s settlement policy on the Arctic archipelago.

Mining profits are low. Simultaneously as Store Norske opened the Lunckefjell mine on Tuesday, the company announced a NOK 75 million (€9 million) loss last year, reports Svalbardposten

The new Lunckefjell mine is located near the older Svea Nord mine in the inmost part of Van Mijenfjord, south of the Longyearbyen, the main Norwegian settlement on Svalbard. A road over a glacier is built for transporting the coal from the mine to the harbor facilities. 

While new coal mining starts at Svalbard, the Norwegian parliament in Oslo is debating Norway’s investment portfolio in global coal-power plants. The sovereign wealth fund, one of the largest in the world, owns stocks in several of the larger coal-power plant companies globally. 

“We want to sell off assets in companies that purely operate coal-power plants because this is the most polluting source of energy we have,” says head of the Centre Party, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum to NRK. With the votes from the Centre Party, a majority of the members in the parliament are now in favor of banning the sovereign wealth fund from investing in coal-power. Other industries that are banned from the investment portfolio are related to nuclear weapons, tobacco and child labor.