The war between Russia and Ukraine has extended operations at Norway’s last functioning coal mine in the Arctic.
The Norwegian-owned coal company, Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani, has opted to keep its last mine in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago in operation for an extra two years. The mine was supposed to close sometime in the fall of 2023, but it will now be open and operational until mid-2025. The shutdown date was changed to ensure that European steel-makers have enough supplies amid the war, Reuters reported.
Most of the Arctic mines that were once operated by Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani have shut down over the last 20 years. The company continued to operate Mine 7 to meet export needs and to provide coal to a nearby power plant. But as Russia becomes increasingly cut off from the rest of the continent, many European countries will face an energy crisis this winter without a steady supply of natural gas.
The decision to keep the coal mine operating until 2025 is also part of Norway’s political strategy during the war. Norwegian politicians have argued that the country should keep Mine 7 open to maintain an influence on the Svalbard archipelago, where Russia also has a coal mine, the Financial Times reported.
Governments should be tapering off natural gas usage, but the war has shifted some priorities, including for countries like Norway that have a “green” reputation. The world needs to phase out fossil fuel infrastructure as soon as possible to rapidly lower emissions and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change. The Arctic is heating up about four times faster than the rest of the planet, as recent study concluded, and changes there can have far-reaching effects elsewhere on the planet.