THE ABANDONED MINE AT SPITSBERGEN
Barentsburg or Баренцбург is the second-largest settlement on Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The village started as a Dutch mining town in the 1920s. Eventually, in 1932 the Dutch sold their concession to the Soviet Union.
The Dutch mining company NESPICO was founded in 1920. The company bought a Russian mine in Green Harbor fjord and mined coal from 1921 to 1926. The company renamed its settlement Barentsburg after the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz. Eventually in 1932 the Dutch sold the mine, including its settlement Barentsburg, to the Russian Trust Arktikugol.
Today, the 455 Barentsburg residents are almost all ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. Under the terms of the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, citizens of the involved countries have equal rights to exploit natural resources, and as a result Russia maintains mining operations on the island. However, Svalbard is under Norwegian sovereignty. The population has declined over the decades, in fact in its heyday over 1,000 Soviet citizens inhabited Barentsburg.
This was probably the location of the very first coal mine in Barentsburg. However, the mine entrance that we can see here today is certainly not from the Dutch period in the 1920s, but from a younger date. The other photos are taken in a derelict building that was used for ventilation of the mine shafts.
The Russian company Artikugol is still active today. The coal is usually exported to Northern Europe. It is unclear for how long the mining can continue. For example, the miners are working deeper and deeper. For now, it takes more than an hour to get down to the tunnels where coal is extracted. Tourism is now being developed, but does not yet generate enough income to revive the town. In recent years, buildings in Barentsburg have undergone a significant facelift. Also, a souvenir shop is opened and signs in English direct foreign visitors to the various sights.