SP: It has been three years in Svalbard, Per Andersson. Have you found yourself a new job now?
PA: Yes, I have found a job that is not in Narvik, where I live, but that is so close that the family will get more of a chance to collect itself.
SP: You're keeping your cards close to your chest?
PA: Yes, I think it is most orderly that my new employer is the one who announces this. But I can say that it is still in the energy industry.
SP: Why are you leaving?
PA: It's complicated to live in Svalbard, and have my house and home in Narvik. At least when you also have got grandchildren across the country beginning to get a bit up in years and think that it's nice to see their families often.
SP: The last time you changed jobs you went from solar energy at REC Solar to coal mining at Store Norske. Will the leap be corresponding large this time?
PA: Hee-hee. At any rate, I heard from a colleague that there is vacant position as director of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Should I have followed up on the previous leap, perhaps I ought to have gone for it.
SP: You joined Store Norske on Jan. 1, 2012. How was your first meeting with the company?
PA: It was very positive. The people who received me were pleasant and professional who accepted the new employees in a good way. I have always had an extremely good impression of Store Norske and the decision to quit was very difficult. I have gone many rounds with myself and it was not the relationship with Store Norske that was decisive
SP: Why are you going right now?
PA: The timing is not optimal, because we are struggling with cost challenges. 2014 will be a tough year and as a spectator one might think that it was a strange time to resign. But with the family one cannot project.
SP: But resignation is not until the New Year and you have half a year left. What are you hoping to achieve?
PA: We have started a race to modernize the company and improve the predictability of the workday, and there I think we have come a long way. That I will follow up on particularly.
SP: How has it been leading the cornerstone industry in Svalbard?
PA: Store Norske is a business that is quite complex compared to any business on the mainland. We have some tasks that go beyond running a business. Or, strictly speaking, we do not, if I understand the owner correctly. They point out that we should be a profitable business. But we will fulfill our social responsibility in Svalbard in more ways than just being a major employer including, among other things, by taking a role in culture and sports.
SP: What have you not gotten to?
PA: We have worked much with (Norway's health, safety and environment agency) and have had good progress from 2012 to 2013, but beginning in 2014 it has been slightly worse. If I am to be dissatisfied with something, it must be that. That work is going slower than I hoped for.
SP: Do you see a future for Store Norske?
PA: Absolutely, but not necessarily in coal. Store Norske has a portfolio of projects that we are looking at, such as activities at Hotellneset and technology research at Svea. We already have infrastructure and a bunch of talented people at Svea, and it's easier to use those skills than to start over.
SP: What do you want at Hotellneset?
PA: In connection with sea routes opening, and oil and gas operating further north, Longyearbyen will have a role and then Hotellneset is the most seaside industrial area in Svalbard. It is important that we are forward-looking, because there are certainly other nations attempting the same thing.
SP: In addition to filling your position, Store Norske has for a long time been working to establish a new mine manager without success. Is it difficult to get senior managers with the right skills to move so far north?
PA: Yes, that one must simply admit. There is a good job market on the mainland for oil and gas and other industries, so people with education and skills have a lot to choose from. To move to Svalbard is probably a bit of a personal adjustment to make, but there are most certainly some who out are there and dream about it.
SP: Have you had any life other than Store Norske while you have been here?
PA: Yes, I am now puttering about a bit on Platåberget and gone snowmobiling in April. It's a great place with great people, so it is not anything about that. But I have had a very bad conscience about the house and cabin that I cannot follow up on the mainland.
SP: What advice would you give those who are searching for your successor?
PA: What we have learned is that one must be good at introducing and providing an understanding of the entire business to the newcomer, because there are many activities and it is a complex company.
SP: Do you have a poignant last word?
PA: I have told the board that here it is business as usual until my flight to the mainland goes, so I will not make a speech now. I am saving the big words until that happens.
SP: Do you believe Store Norske is better prepared for the future after your period as director?
PA: Now one should be modest, but I will say that we have achieved a lot on the planning side, and put in place systems that will increasingly allow us to know what we have done and what we should do.
Are beginning to search
"We regret that Per Andersson is leaving Store Norske, but we understand the decision," said Annette Malm Justad, chairperson of the company's board of directors (pictured).
The board has asked Andersson to remain in the position for his term of notice, which is six months. That means that he will lead the company until the end of the year. The process of finding Andersson's successor is underway. The board's next meeting in Longyearbyen in late August, but they will meet before then to work on the matter.
What is the board looking for in a new top manager for the company?
"The only thing that we know precisely about it now is that it must be one that can continue the race that we have started," Justad said. "The company is undergoing a major restructuring process and this is a process that must continue."
How is it recruiting for an industry that many will put down?
"Only time will tell," she said. "All that are in the commodities industry knows that it goes up and down, and that the market now is very difficult. We also know that coal isolation is controversial and we must simply take note of that."