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Glad Norway is purchasing Austre Adventfjord

Minister of Trade and Industry Minister Monica Mæland announced last Friday the state is buying Austre Adventfjord. FOTO: Kart: Topo Svalbard

Glad Norway is purchasing Austre Adventfjord

Mining commissioner Peter J. Brugmans believes the state has the ability to better control the development of Svalbard after the land acquisition. 

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"The state has had as a policy to buy up property that has been put up for sale since Sveagruva came into Norwegian hands in 1934," Brugmans said. "There are now only three property owners on Svalbard. That's Trust Artikugol, Kullspits AS and the Norwegian government."

Austre Adventfjord is located just northeast of Longyearbyen. The property is approximately 217.6 square kilometers and represents approximately 0.35 percent of Svalbard's total land area.

Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland said it was important for the government get the agreement for this property in place. The state now owns more than 99 percent of the property in the archipelago.

Other owners
The Russian company Trust Arktikugol is the only foreign landowner in Svalbard. They own property in Barentsburg, Pyramiden, Grumant and Bohemanflya. The Norwegian company AS Kullspitss owns property in Søre Fagerfjord.

Brugmans said there are two claimholders for mining rights on the Austre Adventfjord property purchased by the state. Store Norske has seven claims and Austre Adventfjord AS has ten.

The mining commissioner said he is pleased Austre Advenfjord was not sold to a foreign interest.

"I won't speculate on who might have bought it," he said. "I'm just glad that the property is in Norwegian hands. It helps to preserve calm and predictable conditions in Svalbard."

Agreement
The owners of Austre Adventfjord agreed to sell the property to the government for 300 million kroner.

“I am very pleased that this issue seems to be resolved,” Mæland said in a prepared statement. “The government will now submit it to Parliament and I hope that Parliament endorses it.”

Erling O. Lyngtveit, an attorney representing a Bergen family that owns the property, said he is also glad the sale is finalized.

"We are very satisfied with the purchase and price," he said.

The owners contacted the ministry in January of 2014 to inquire whether the state would be interested in buying the property. Based on an assessment of factors such the property's location near Longyearbyen and a desire to keep such property under Norwegian ownership, Mæland said the government was ready to acquire the property.

The state has no concrete plans for how it will use the property.

Cabin owners in the area have made an annual lease payment to the family that owns the property. Mæland said she doesn't yet know how that might change.

"We have not gone into the details, but we will manage the property in a reasonable way as we do with all properties in Svalbard," she said.

Will the state consider establishing coal mines in the area?

"We are now using a lot of resources on the operational pause at Svea. That is the first place where we will consider coal mining, but as of now there are no concrete plans, no," said Mæland, adding she believes there is a large majority in Parliament who support maintain the facilities at Svea for up to three years.

Odd Olsen Ingerø, when he was Svalbard's governor, urged the ministry to purchase the property in 2014. Since then there has been speculation about other possible buyers. Svalbardposten wrote in May of 2014 that Chinese businessman Huang Nubo was willing to pay about 650 million kroner for the property, which includes a large mountainous area near Longyearbyen.

Clarification
Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen said he is glad the Austre Adventfjord situation has been clarified.

"It is gratifying that the state is taking control of the property in Svalbard," he said. "This has been a long case that we've been anxious about where it would end."

Hans Olav Knutsen, a Røros resident who owns a cabin on the property, also said the sale is good news.

"I am glad that the state is taking over the property. I see it as positive that it will remain in Norwegian hands," said Knutsen, who's cabin at Revneset was built in 1933 and is listed as a cultural heritage structure.

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Mining commissioner Peter J. Brugmans is glad the state is acquiring Austre Adventfjord. FOTO: Hilde Røsvik

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