Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Nov. 22, 2016


Governor rejects Store Norkse’s tourism plans for Svea
A proposal to turn the inoperative Svea coal mine into a year-round tourist destination has been rejected by The Governor of Svalbard due to the potential environmental impact of the project. “Van Mijenfjorden has had the most stable ice conditions of the fjords on the west side of Svalbard, and that has great significance for polar bears and seals,” said Knut Fossum, the governor’s chief environmental advisor. “A large amount of traffic related to research and tourism in Svea can have serious consequences for the surrounding area. The issue is not adequately explored in the proposed plan.” The area is zoned for mining and Store Norske sought to amend a land-use plan to allow other activities, projecting up to 7,300 visitors a year would visit the tourist facilities and the amount of research – which has varied between 700 and 1,500 work days annually since 2013 – would increase as well. Store Norske Administrative Director Wenche Ravlo said the company plans to continue discussions with the governor’s office to develop an acceptable plan.

Airport shifts upgrade schedule to allow all summer flights
Work on an upgrade to the runway at Svalbard Airport, including all new lighting, will be adjusted next summer to allow all flights to arrive and depart as previously scheduled, according to officials. The airport originally planned to shut down evenings and nights for the work, which could have affected nearly half of the commercial airline flights. Tourism officials expressed concern, stating that one of the benefits of late-night flights was it allowed travelers aboard to connect to flights in Oslo without spending a night there. “Now those who will be carrying out the project will need to compress and adapt their schedule,” said Airport Manager Morten Ulsnes, adding he doesn’t believe the change will delay or otherwise impair the upgrades.