The “cornerstone” of Longyearbyen’s 115-year existence is set to reach its final end after a years-long phaseout, as Mine 7 is scheduled to cease operations in 2028 and be dismantled during the next two years, Svalbardposten reported Friday.
Store Norske’s board of directors approved the closure to coincide with when Longyearbyen’s coal-fired power plant is scheduled to be fully replaced by a new facility – likely natural gas or wood pellets – now in the evaluation stage, the newspaper reported. The dismantling of the mine and all related infrastructure will be similar to the work being done at the larger mines at Svea and Lunckefjell on the order of Norway’s government, which opted to cease operations after they suffered record losses that nearly bankrupted the company.
A new Longyearbyen power plant might be operable in as soon as two years, but the plan is to phase in the new facility in stages.
About 50 people are employed in Mine 7 operations, which as recently as last year were projected to last up to another decade since coal from the mine is sold to Europe as well as providing local power.
The 100 percent state-owned company – which also has operations in property management, tourism and logistics – has stated it plans to transition its mining operations to more environmentally friendly sources of energy, and is already utilizing solar and other alternative forms for small-scale and pilot projects.
Coal mining won’t cease entirely in Svalbard, as the Russian settlement of Barentsburg is continuing its state-owned operations in its mine and has indicated it will continue to do so until it is tapped out.