It weighs more than 7,000 tons, costs more than 300 million kroner and was actually bought for the new Lunckefjell mine. But because of the crisis brought on by low coal prices, Store Norske decided instead to put it at Svea Nord, where it will carry out a 1.2-kilometer-long coal panel at the head of the mine.
Right on the quay
"The first week of December we started installation," said Cato Lund, Store Norske's production manager. "We have tight schedules and we also knew that we were going into a period of downsizing, and that could go above and beyond your motivation. But the guys have done a great job. We are situated on schedule with starting up the stope during the last half of April."
About 20 employees from suppliers and Store Norske worked on assembly, while others provided the equipment. In contrast to the old panels, only the coal underneath the sedimentary layer is being extracted. Therefore, most of the coal can be brought straight to the loading dock without having to be purified of stone in a concentrating plant. The height of the coal seam is about two meters.
"We will leave the sedimentary rock behind," Lund said. "Some cleansing we will do at the beginning and end of the panel, but the rest will go straight into the boat. Then we will try out the new stope."
Empty by October
It will not be long until the panel is depleted. After six years of operation, the last coal is scheduled to be extracted in mid-October and dismantling will begin. The stope will then be transported to the Lunckefjell mine.
Meanwhile, production will begin in the fringe areas of Svea Nord. That will be done with the old stope that goes into the mountain and will probably be the last coal collected from the mine.
Then the stope will begin operating in Lunckefjellet, but there is only one panel in the new mine ready to be extracted. Store Norske must decide in August if the company will start developing new panels in Lunckefjell. Such work must start during the fall to avoid a stoppage in coal mining. The dilemma is the cost of development while coal prices are low and the company is in a crisis.
Inside the mine, however, it's about performing the mission.
"There has been an atmosphere of pressure because people have lost their jobs, but on the other hand there has been a giant effort," Lund said. "They have worked hard to succeed and I am impressed with how they have kept pressing on even though we are in a situation of downsizing. It shows that we have dedicated and talented employees."
The new stope has a total of 139 pistons, plus a cutting machine, pumps, monorail and other equipment.