Pyramiden Coal Mine


This is an abandoned Russian mine on the island of Svalbard. In 1998 the mine was closed and the village of Pyramiden abandoned.

According to old archives, Svalbard was discovered in 1194, but it remained unknown until it was rediscovered by the Dutch explorers Willem Barentsz and Jacob van Heemskerck in June 1596. Dutch and English whalers arrived as early as 1611. The Russians arrived about 1715.
Not only whales, but also the presence of coal, made the islands interesting. Many countries claimed their rights. The claims were settled by a treaty granting possession to Norway and mineral rights on an equal basis to various countries.

In 1899, Svalbard brought the first coal to mainland Norway for sale. Prior to this, coal from Spitsbergen had occasionally been used locally on a very small scale.

Russkij Grumant

This old mining town Pyramiden is situated in Billefjorden, its name is derived from the pyramid shaped mountain close by. Exploration of the coal deposits here started in the summer of 1910 with a Swedish expedition. The experimental operation showed to be promising. As a result, the area was annexed by the Swedes and a few mines were opened. But the conditions in Pyramiden proved to be difficult. Therefore, the Swedes sold Pyramiden to the Russian mining company Russkij Grumant in 1927. The company sold the mines again in the beginning of the 1930s, this time to the Russian state-owned Trust Arktikugol. This company started prior to the Second World War, but the scale of operation was small. After the war, things took a turn.

Work in the mines of Pyramiden was very popular through the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The workers had a contract period of two years and the wages were decent. As a result, they could choose amongst the best workers. Pyramiden was considered a good place to be.


Between 1955 and 1998, Pyramiden produced almost 9 million tons of coal in total. Of this, one million tons were used in the on-site power plant, while the remaining amount was hauled out of Svalbard. Although the coal seams in Pyramiden are several meters thick, their extraction posed significant challenges. Consequently, coal mining ceased in 1998. The village and mine were abandoned, and the locals never returned. To this day, the community remains nearly unchanged since the departure of the last family.

Regarding Russian activity, it is currently centered around Barentsburg, near the entrance of Isfjord. Additionally, there are indications that a new mine may soon open in Colesdalen. I visited the Pyramiden Coal Mine in 2018 on my Svalbard trip.

Built 1910
Abandoned 1998
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