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Closing the coal mines

Mining 6 is a popular destination for people in Longyearbyen and was formerly part of the Topptrimmen hiking challenge. Now the foundation of the gray tunnel at the far right of the picture has failed. FOTO: Line Nagell Ylvisåker

Closing the coal mines

Store Norske has closed Mine 6 to all traffic because the structures are unsafe. Now they are also closing Mine 1A, Mine 2B and Mine 5.

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Two weeks ago, Store Norske posted a message on Facebook stating the Mine 6 was being closed to traffic until the structures were secured due to the roof on a conveyor belt collapsing.

In a letter to Store Norske, Longyearbyen's municipal government asked for a report on the company's plans to close and secure the site. In addition, they are seeking similar details about the company's other structures.

Recommedning demolition

Store Norske received a report this month from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) and Multiconsult about Mine 6.

"We will address the recommendations we've gotten there," wrote Sveinung Lystrup Thesen, Store Norske's property and administrative manager, in an e-mail to Svalbardposten. "Presumably that will involve demolition of some unstable elements and securing others. Here we have to go a round with the local council and the governor, respectively, beginning with the building case and cultural heritage authority."

In a response to the city, Thesen quotes the report from NIKU and Multiconsult that states several sections of the tunnel broke abruptly, but part of the tunnel remains in serviceable condition. The recommendation is therefore to demolish the damaged parts while allowing the usable portions to remain as part of the cultural heritage site.

Store Norske now plans apply for permission to demolish the tunnel and seek bids from contractors to perform safety-related work for the entire site. If there is not have time to remove the tunnel this year, the plan is to secure it so is not further damaged or a threat to the environment.

Closing Mine 2B

NIKU and Multiconsult also conducted an on-site inspection of Mine 2B, a popular and more central hiking destination, earlier this month. Improvements are also recommend there because the site is dangerous. Store Norske is therefore putting up informative signs down by the road and up at the structure stating access is forbidden. They are also blocking the entrance to the surface installation. The company plans to seek a grant from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund to assess the condition of the mine, after which they will apply for money for specific remedial measures. The same is planned for Mine 1A and Mine 5, which are also now closed to traffic.

In his letter to the city, Thesen states oversight of cultural heritage sites occurs irregularly, but they understand the advantage of advantageously structuring site visits better. The company plans to create a plan and implement it beginning next summer.

Rotting trestles

Longyearbyen's mining trestles were surveyed in 2012. Several of them are weakened by rot in the junction between air and soil. Work started this fall to repair the trestle standing between Kulturhuset and Longyearbyen Hospital.

Store Norwegian applied this fall for an environmental protection grant to repair the six other large trestles in the center of town. Work will be done during the winter if the company gets the money.

NIKU and Multiconsult also assessed the cableway trestles at Mine 5 and determined they need repair.

Thesen, in his e-mail to Svalbardposten, states it is a huge resource challenge for Store Norske to manage the numerous old mine-related facilities.

"Several of these are also protected cultural heritage sites," he wrote. "In other words, it is not only about tearing it down. It is also an important cultural heritage for Longyearbyen that we all want to have remain. There is a huge resource challenge to manage all this, but naturally we are prioritizing the portions that could pose a safety risk and are working diligently to address those. Securing the trestles in the center of town is what we determined is the highest priority. "

Thesen stated it should not be dangerous to visit the cultural heritage sites owned by Store Norske.

"Having said that, those who are actively seeking out these facilities, of course, should do so with due care and common sense," he wrote.

Se bildet større

Mine 2B is also known as the Santa Claus Mine. A mailbox is placed at the base of the mountain every year so kids can mail their letters to Santa. FOTO: Birger Amundsen

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