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'Coal on the way out'

Coal is not the future of energy, says Climate and Environmental Minister Tine Sundtoft.

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"It is definitely not and a transition away from coal to Norwegian gas means something, even internationally," Sundtoft said. "But until we get new energy sources in place it is important that we develop new technology to clean the carbon in coal operations."

Norway should shut down coal mining in Svalbard as quickly as possible, said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary for the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change, according to NRK. That proposal has garnered enthusiasm from many, including the Green Party and Young Friends of the Earth Norway.

Svalbardposten interviewed Sundtoft before the proposal was made. Although the member of the ruling Conservative Party believes coal as an energy source is on the way out, she is not scheduling the transition.

"It is obviously not long ago since we opened the last coal mine and it means a lot to Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard," she said. "We are seeing that research and tourism is on the rise. We know that coal is a challenge in regards to climate change. We also know that they are working on new technology for carbon capture and storage, so it is too early to be absolute about this."

When does she think the use of coal will cease?

"I cannot give you an exact year on it now, but the goal is for a low-carbon society by 2050 that doesn't have coal in place.," she said. "That we know."

In March, Store Norske opened the new Lunckefjell mine. Coal reserves there are enough for about five years of production. The company then plans to extract reserves from the soon-to-be-depleted Svea Nord mine and a new mine at Ispallen, and hopes to eventually open another new mine at Operafjellet.

"There is a greater awareness of coal as a challenge and it is gratifying to see that there are other industrial branches also growing more in Svalbard," Sundtoft said. "But this is something you have to come back to."

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