International news within the industry of mining and metal, Jul, 18 2019
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Svalbard: from mining to tourism

For over 100 years has Svalbard lived almost entirely on coal mining. Recently, it became clear that the largest mine, Svea Nord, is closed for good. Within a few years, it will be a good night for the last active mine in the main town of Longyearbyen. It is hoped that increasing tourism will replace many of the lost mining jobs. Photo: Creative Commons, credit: Gus880.
For over 100 years has Svalbard lived almost entirely on coal mining. Recently, it became clear that the largest mine, Svea Nord, is closed for good. Within a few years, it will be a good night for the last active mine in the main town of Longyearbyen. It is hoped that increasing tourism will replace many of the lost mining jobs. Photo: Creative Commons, credit: Gus880.
Published by
Markku Björkman - 13 Feb 2019

Major changes shaking the Svalbard high up in the Arctic. The climate is getting warmer and at the same time, the whole of society is changing.

For more than 100 years, the economy has built on mining. Now the coal mines are moving away and Svalbard is becoming increasingly dependent on tourism.

Last year there were over 145,000 tourists who visited Svalbard, which means a more than 70 per cent increase in five years.

The society in Svalbard is to a large extent subsidized by the Norwegian state, among other things through particularly favourable tax rules that make it cheaper to live on the Arctic island group.

At the same time, the entire Svalbard economy is changing.

Svalbard is perhaps the place on earth as the most notable of climate change, with melting ice and thawing permafrost. In this way, it is perhaps a paradox that here you have been so dependent on coal, which, when burnt, contributes to a warmer climate.

Now the coal mining is on its way away, and the Norwegian government is just about to develop a new strategy for how Svalbard can be developed as a society. Tourism is thus becoming increasingly important, but there is also a unique research environment.

Scientists have begun to try to find out how much tourism Svalbard actually can take. In the summer, more and more huge cruise ships are docking at the small quay in Longyearbyen. For a few hours each time, the community is flooded with up to 4,000 tourists, twice as many as the number of residents.

Svalbard has a unique, sensitive nature, and it is not only the polar bears that are affected by the sea and the warmer climate.