"We hope to open the mine for tourists around the 15th of August," said Steinar Rorgemoen, managing director of Basecamp Spitsbergen. He describes the new initiative as a unique product that will be in operation throughout the year.
"The beauty of Mine 3 is that it still looks the way it actually was when the mine was operational," Rorgemoen said. "We will make some small adjustments for experience's sake, but it should be authentic. We hope that visitors will come away with an understanding of how the daily lives of the miners were."
Basecamp Spitsbergen staff toured Mine 3 on Monday to get an introduction to what it was like to work there. Their guide was Håvar Fjerdingøy, who worked in the mine from 1982 until operations ceased in the fall of 1996.
"It's a blast to see that mine being used again," said Fjerdingøy, now general manager for Store Norske's housing subsidiary. "I have a huge heart for Mine 3."
Terje Karlsen, the project's leader at Store Norske, said the company constantly get requests about whether it's possible to enter and explore the mine. As a result, officials have long worked to develop a solution that also fits into the restructuring process Store Norske is now going through.
"In recent months there has been a very intense process," Karlsen said. "We had several providers, but Basecamp Spitsbergen scored best. It has to do with how they will arrange the mission of guiding and the overall experience."
He said it's also important to preserve the atmosphere of the mine, which today stands out as a place where time has stood still. Message boards with sheets dating back to 1996 are still hanging, coal carts are still there and the old forge is full of rusty tools on the workbench.
"One can truly touch and feel the atmosphere, and so shall we tell the story of Mine 3," says Karlsen, adding he wants visitors to experience something completely new.
Searching for a mine manager
Basecamp Spitsbergen is now looking for a "mine manager" that can help to further develop the product. In addition, guides are being trained by Store Norske to tell the mine's story in the best possible way.
"Here we are completely dependent on help from Store Norske," Rorgemoen said.
The initial agreement between Store Norske and Basecamp Spitsbergen extends through September 2016, with Store Norske retaining ownership of the mine. They will also be responsible for safety in the mine.
"The safety requirements will be as high as if the mine would have been in operation today," Fjerdingøy said, noting that guides will be equipped with gas meters as a precaution, among other things.
"We have set an absolute requirement for safety," he said. "If there is something we want to implement that can not be resolved in a way that is 100 percent certain, we will drop it."
Translated by Mark Sabbatini