Norway to shut its last Arctic coal mine in 2023

Norway will in 2023 shut its last coal mine in Svalbard, its operator said Thursday, drawing to a close more than a century of prospecting by Oslo in this Arctic archipelago.

An old dilapidated factory in Svalbard, where Norway will end coal mining operations in 2023.
An old dilapidated factory in Svalbard, where Norway will end coal mining operations in 2023. Photo by Vince Gx on Unsplash

Mine 7 will close in September 2023 after authorities in Longyearbyen, the archipelago’s capital, terminated a contract to supply the local power plant, the Store Norske mining company announced.

The closure won’t spell the end of all mining in this snow-drenched place north of the Arctic Circle, as a Russian company continues to extract coal there, keeping a strategic presence in the Arctic.

“The purpose of Mine 7 is to supply coal to the power plant in Longyearbyen. Now that the coal supply agreement has been terminated, there is no longer any reason to operate the mine,” Store Norske’s director Jan Morten Ertsaas said in a statement.

“We have been producing coal in Svalbard for more than 100 years, so it is kind of special to bring the coal era to a close today,” he added.

Longyearbyen was founded in 1906 by John Munroe Longyear, an American businessman, to mine coal.

In 1920, Norway’s sovereignty over the archipelago was recognised in a treaty that gave other signatory states, including the Soviet Union at the time, permission to engage in economic activities there as well, on an equal footing.

Longyearbyen’s power plant will be fuelled by diesel after the end of coalsupply, until a solution involving renewable energy is set up.

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Norwegian PM ‘sceptical’ on gas price cap

Norway, which has replaced Russia as Europe's leading supplier of natural gas, said Monday it was 'sceptical' about a gas price cap proposed by a majority of EU members.

Norwegian PM 'sceptical' on gas price cap

“We approach discussions in an open spirit, but we are sceptical of a maximum gas price”, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement following a phone call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“A maximum price does not change the fundamental issue that there is a gas shortage in Europe”, he said.

European energy ministers who met Friday in Brussels said they were in favour of a series of measures aimed at combatting soaring gas and electricity prices, with some calling for a cap on the price of gas imports in the EU.

While the European Commission has proposed a price ceiling on gas imported from Russia, several member states, including Italy, called for a price ceiling on all gas bought by EU states, including liquified natural gas (LNG).

Non-EU member Norway, which has benefitted from soaring prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has until now kept a low profile on the issue, preferring instead to leave it up to oil and gas companies to negotiate their own contracts.

The Scandinavian country recently replaced Russia as Europe’s leading gas supplier, due to plunging Russian deliveries and an eight percent increase of its own deliveries.

Last week, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told the Financial Times that the country would potentially be open to a price cap and long-term gas agreement to help its European partners.

“I fully understand that Europe now has a profound debate about how energy markets work, how they can secure more affordable prices for citizens, families, industries, and how this shortfall of gas after Putin’s aggression can be handled,” Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre, told the newspaper.

“Norway is not closing doors to any such discussion,” he added.

However, this weekend he reiterated that it is not the Norwegian government that can directly offer Europe a capped price on gas. He has also moved to clarify that he is open to assessing all the solutions that the EU puts forward, not just price caps and price agreements.

“I tell my European colleagues that it is not me who sells the gas. Licenses are given to companies that pay a high tax, and then they are the ones who sell it,” he told Norwegian newspaper VG this weekend.

READ MORE: What is Norway doing to help ease the European energy crisis?