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Norway Closes Down Its Last Arctic Coal Mine and Transforms Land into ‘Best Managed’ National Park

Reprinted with permission from World in general, a news website on nature, politics, science, health and travel.

Hans-Jurgen Mager

Norway is dismantling its last Arctic coal mine piece by piece and turning the area in which it is located into a national park twice the size of Grand Teton in Wyoming.

The goal is to turn the Svalbard archipelago, in particular the Van Mijenfjord, into a howling wilderness once again, the best-managed wilderness in the world where polar bears, seals, and many other Arctic species can thrive in what experts they say it will be one of the more resilient areas threatened by climate change.

Seeds aren’t the only thing stored underground in Svalbard. Coal has been mined there under the state monopoly for 100 years. Although the pressures of climate change increased throughout the 21st century, it was not until 2016 that an official report was published announced a moratorium.

Seven national parks, 15 bird sanctuaries, a geopark and six reserves dot two-thirds of the 23,500-square-mile (61,000-square-kilometer) archipelago of islands, fjords, mountains and glaciers. 3,000 polar bears inhabit the area, and during late summer more than 20 million birds of 80 different species nest on Svalbard.

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The Van Mijen Fjord has sea ice throughout the year and as such is an important hunting ground for bears. In the fjord gorge, the Svea mine has loaded ships with coal for generations, but is now being dismembered rather than abandoned to ensure the area returns to a pristine natural state.

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TO June press release by the Norwegian government announced that they were expanding the existing Nordenskiöld Land National Park to encompass the fjord, creating an additional 1,125 square miles (2,914 square kilometers) of desert called Van Mijenfjorden National Park.

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“Our goal is for Svalbard to be one of the best managed wilderness areas in the world. That requires us to implement measures to cope with climate change and the pressure caused by increased traffic. The protection of the Van Mijen fjord and its surroundings is a direct response to this, ”says Minister Sveinung Rotevatn in the same statement.

The borders of the new park It sits atop the existing Sør-Spitsbergen National Park, making it easy for visitors to see both.

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