Svea, the last coal mine

Svea Nord is the last large coal mine on Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago between 74 and 81° North. The little mining place has no local population, but houses about 300 miners who commute weekly from the archipelago’s main settlement Longyearbyen. All transport is by small planes, as there’s no road connection between the few settlements on the main island, Spitsbergen.

Even though environment protection is strictly enforced, the landscape just around the mines bears evident signs of the human activities going on there. The road to one of the access points to the mine runs along the side of a glacial valley. The local glacier is almost completely gone and the thin layer of coal dust covering its remains may be contributing to this agony.

I was told that most miners nowadays are guys in their twenties or thirties. After a few years of well paid work at the mine, the majority of them move back to the mainland, buy a house and get a more ordinary job. A shift inside the mine is long, the work is very hard even though assisted by modern machines the general conditions in there are far from welcoming. After a few hours inside the darkest place on earth, I was happy to see the light again.

3 Comments on “Svea, the last coal mine

  1. Another marvellous series, I well understand that these young people only want to do this work for lots of money and then get out as quick as they can.
    Great photography, especially considering the ‘dark and dingy’ conditions.

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