Firm strikes gold on Svalbard

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After several months analyzing more than three tons of material excavated from Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic, Canadian and Swedish experts have determined there’s gold up north.

Tourism and mining are Svalbard's two major industries. Here, a full winter moon over Longyearbyen. PHOTO: Svalbard Reiseliv/Erlend Helmersen

Store Norske Gull AS, a Norwegian gold mining company and subsidiary of Store Norske AS, was established in 2003 to explore potential gold reserves on Svalbard. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported this week that millions have been spent on drilling over the summer, when 20 holes were made in an area around St Johnsfjord, midway between Longyearbyen on the western coast of Spitsbergen, and New Ålesund, one of the world’s northernmost settlements.

While the existence of gold has been ascertained, it’s not yet definite that the quantities available will make extraction worthwhile. Morten Often, CEO of Store Norske Gull, couldn’t confirm to NRK that mining will go forward, but says “results are so encouraging that we want to continue exploring the area next summer.”

Located halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has officially belonged to Norway since the 1925 Svalbard Act. The two main industries on the islands are mining and tourism. Svalbard’s tourism slogan – boasting 3,000 polar bears and 2,500 people – offers an idea of the vast, icy tundra dispersed with small settlements connected only through tracks left behind by snowmobiles.

The exploration of minerals has proved fruitful in the northern areas of Norway. with discoveries of gold ore in the Karasjok region of Finnmark County reported last April. This sparked conflict between reindeer owners, concerned with environmental factors, and the potential for financial growth and labor opportunities involved in mining. No such issue has arisen over the gold discovery in Svalbard yet; the consideration here is determining the amount of gold present to see whether mining will even prove economically viable.

“The potential is definitely there,” Often told NRK, “we’re just not sure how great.”

Views and News from Norway/Liv Buli
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