Coal is still king in Svalbard

Svalbard, ranging in latitude from 74°N to 81°N,  is about as close as you can come to the “top of the world”. The mining of coal would not normally be thought of in the Arctic and that close to the North Pole but the Svalbard economy is dominated by coal mining. The population of Svalbard had increased by two percent, to 2,158 at the end of 2012.

CIA Factbook: The settlements on Svalbard are essentially company towns. The Norwegian state-owned coal company employs nearly 60% of the Norwegian population on the island, runs many of the local services, and provides most of the local infrastructure. There is also some hunting of seal, reindeer, and fox. Goods such as alcohol, tobacco, and vehicles, normally highly taxed on mainland Norway, are considerably cheaper in Svalbard in an effort by the Norwegian government to entice more people to live on the Arctic archipelago. By law, the Norwegians collect only enough taxes to pay for the needs of the local government. None of tax proceeds go to Norway.

Svalbard

Svalbard

Science Nordic reports:

The economy of Svalbard, the Norwegian arctic archipelago that lies between the country’s mainland and the North Pole, is still dominated by coal even as its value dwindles and employment in the mines drops. …

Tourism, a college and polar and space research activities have yet to make this community independent of coal. This has been verified by a recent analysis of Svalbard’s socio-economic status by the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR).

“Coal mining has always been the mainstay here, and it still is,” says researcher Steinar Johansen, who wrote the report with his colleague Hild Marte Bjørnsen. ….. In addition to all who are directly employed by the local coal company, Store Norske, mining requires a number of sub-venders, and services need to be provided to family members who move to Svalbard’s little town, Longyearbyen, at the chilly latitude of 78° N. …

But can the Svalbard community surive without coal? Not without major changes, according to the researchers.

Tthe statue of the coal miner in the town of Longyearbyen is a reminder of who – or what – really dominates the economy. (Photo: Georg Mathisen)

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