Pyramiden Coal Mine
THE ABANDONED MINE ON SVALBARD
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.
The first coal was brought from Svalbard to mainland Norway, with the purpose of selling it there in 1899. Before, coal from Spitsbergen had occasionally been used locally on a very small scale.
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. In the beginning of the 1930s it was sold again, then 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.
In total, Pyramiden produced approximately 9 million tons of coal between 1955 and 1998. One million tons of this was consumed locally in the power plant; the rest was shipped out of Svalbard. The coal seams in Pyramiden are several meters thick, but were complicated to extract. Therefore, the coal mining was discontinued in 1998. The mine and town were abandoned, the residents never returned. Today, the town still stands much as it was when the last family departed.
Today, Russian activities are concentrated on Barentsburg near the entrance of the Isfjord, and soon possibly a new mine will be opened in the Colesdalen. I visited the Pyramiden Coal Mine in 2018 on my Svalbard trip.