Nina Jensen, the Secretary General of WWF Norway, said she struggled to see how Svaice, which plans to harvest ice from the Svartisen glacier and sell it to high-end bars in glitzy places such as Dubai, could convince her to back it.
“I can not imagine how it could ever be sustainable to extract ice by helicopter and transport it by air around the world,” she said. “For me this is an example of the world’s complete madness.”
The local Meloy municipality, which has so far been an enthusiastic backer of the scheme which promises much-needed jobs to the community, will meet on Wednesday to decide whether it should go ahead.
Svaice maintains that the 1000-year-process through which the glacier ice is created means that it melts more slowly, cooling drinks without diluting them as fast as normal ice.
Jason Box, professor in glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told The Guardian in April that he believed glacial ice cubes might even help consumers consider the threats to the world’s glaciers.
“The proposed venture would have people cherishing the aesthetic of ice,” he told the newspaper. “The way even small pieces of glacier ice floating in a glass resemble identically the shape and form of icebergs; that fractal geometry of nature floating in your whisky glass is aesthetically far more pleasing than artificial ice.”
But Jensen dismissed this argument.
“To advertise that they will bring you ice from a glacier that will soon disappear, should give the drink a slightly bitter aftertaste,” she said.
Geir L Olsen, the company’s founder, in February won a 250,000 kroner grant from Nordland county council and a state forestry company to set up a pilot excavation operation on the Svartisen glacier.
He said that his ice factory was perhaps the cleanest in the world.
“Only clean meltwater comes out of us. We do not use chemicals and the like, and the ice is cut out manually using electric chainsaws without chain oil or other additives,” he said.
He said that the company had consulted with the Norwegian Energy and Water Resources Directorate to find a place on the glacier where ice could be extracted without accelerating its retreat.
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“The ice we are extracting would in a few weeks melt and be lost anyway,” he told NRK. “We are looking at alternative ways to transport the ice, with minimum use of helicopter. When the ice sent out to the world market, it will mainly be in container vessels.”
Svartisen, just above the Arctic circle, is mainland Norway’s second largest glacier, spanning some 369 square kilometres. But its thickness has halved in many places since the millennium.
In 100 years it is projected to have melted away.