Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of July 21, 2015


Russia’s inaction nixes joint polar bear census w/ Norway
A joint Norwegian-Russian census of polar bears in the Barents Sea area, the first such count since 2004, has been cancelled after Russia failed to grant authorization for researchers to access its territory in time for the count. “I am disappointed that we did not get permission,” said Jon Aars, a polar bear researcher for the Norwegian Polar Institute. “But we’ll make the best out of the situation and then we’ll take it from there.” The census, scheduled to start at the end of the month, was intended to update the previous count – which placed the population between 1,900 and 3,600 bears – and determine what factors might be affecting a population experts believe is declining. Aars said the count will still take place on the Norwegian side of the border and officials are still hoping to convince Russia to take a count on their side in the near future to provide at least a general idea of the total popluation.

New Svalbard ‘white paper’ won’t be done until 2016   
A revised “white paper” detailing the Norwegian governor’s policy goals for Svalbard will not be completed until next spring, the same time the financially imperiled Store Norske will need to decide if it can proceed with new mining operations beyond the end of 2016. “The ministry is working as quickly as possible, but this is a comprehensive effort that includes many ministries,” said Anders Bortne, a communi-cations advisor for Norway’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security, which has administrative oversight of Svalbard. The revision was announced shortly after Store Norske revealed it was nearly bankrupt due to low coal prices and needed an emergency government loan to continue mining.

Data from old oil wells sought
The Norwegian Oil Industry Association is requesting the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate publish its data from old wells drilled at several sites during oil and gas exploration in Svalbard, in order to better assess conditions for approved drilling new sites in the southern Barents Sea.