Politicians in the northern Norwegian community of Meløy have apparently listened to critics of a controversial project to sell exclusive ice cubes carved out of the glacier Svartisen. Meløy’s local council turned down the project on Friday, by a vote of 18 to 2.
“We had two choices,” Meløy Mayor Sigurd Stormo of the Labour Party told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We could either follow the municipal administrator’s advice and turn down the plan, or we could say ‘yes,’ but then we’d have to send it to the ministry (in charge of environmental issues) for a final decision. The majority landed on a decision to reject the application, and rather support an entirely new plan for preservation and use of the Svartisen area.”
The glacier ice cube plan by a local entrepreneur and company, Svaice AS, called for carving around 3,600 cubic meters of ice from the glacier in Nordland County and transporting the ice blocks out by helicopter. Geir Olsen, founder of Svaice, planned to sell the ice cubes to bars, restaurants and other potential international customers who could in turn market drinks with glacier ice from Norway.
Not so ‘cool’ after all
Olsen and some local politicians who supported the project argued the venture could create needed jobs in the area and make new use of a local natural resource. He had also claimed that several bars in London, for example, had viewed the plan as “a very cool concept.”
The plans, however, have long generated strong protests from environmental organizations and those concerned over how Norway’s glaciers are already receding and threatened by climate change. Some critics were nothing short of outraged over the Svartisen ice cube project, even calling it “insane,” while tourism organizations also objected mightily, not least to prospective helicopter traffic in the area. Many politicians both locally and nationally also opposed the project.
Olsen, who reportedly has invested around NOK 12 million (USD 1.4 million) in the project, wasn’t immediately available for comment but Stormo said he could understand that he’s likely very disappointed. “The result of this is negative for Olsen,” Stormo told NRK, “but I don’t feel like anyone has been treated badly. His application was handled in accordance with other plans, but it has taken a long time because we faced so many problems and lots of engagement (opposition).”
Ice-mining under evaluation
Stormo also noted that Meløy’s new plan will evaluate whether ice, minerals or gravel in the Svartisen area can be put to other use. That means an ice cube project can come up again, “but we’re talking many years ahead, and it would have to be in accordance with sustainable environmental management in the area.”
Nordland County officials were pleased and relieved by the local council’s decision. “I’m glad that the Meløy council has rejected the proposal to extract ice from Svartisen,” wrote county administrator Aase Refsnes of the Socialist Left party (SV). By halting the extraction of ice from the glacier, local officials have instead opened up for more tourism and the opportunity, she thinks, to build up the area’s reputation instead of damaging it.
“I was very concerned about the symbolic effect of such a project,” Refsnes said. “It would have been unfortunate for the area’s commitment to developing sustainable tourism instead.”