`Shocking` cuts at NPI

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Siri Nilsen
Siri Nilsen

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Monica Mæland
Monica Mæland

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Øystein Pettersen
Øystein Pettersen

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BREAKING: One of three kindergartens closing as downsized families depart. Story at icepeople.net
Weather summary
Partly cloudy with moderate cold
and winds through the weekend;
clearing skies early next week.
Full forecast page 3
The world's northernmost alternative newspaper
Vol. 7, Issue 15
April 28, 2015
Peace of mine
Sovereignty worries, not business, may be main reason for 500M government bailout of Store Norske
Norway's government wants to give Store
Norske more bailout money than the nearly
bankrupt coal company asked for, but the
largesse may be more about self-preservation
than generosity or good business sense.
A 500-million-kroner allocation to continue mining operations, 100 million more than
Store Norske requested, is being recommended
by the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Fisheries. The announcement of the bailout, combining a loan and the acquisition of some Store
Norske properties, coincides with a proposed
increase in defense spending due to increasing
tensions with Russia primarily resulting from
aggressive efforts to expand its Arctic presence.
"It is important to maintain both economic
activity and settlements in Svalbard," said Monica Mæland, head of the trade ministry, during a
press conference Thursday in Oslo. "Mining by
Store Norske is a contribution to this. At the
same time, this is an industry with challenging
market conditions and significant risks. This
agreement paves the way for the operation of
See BAILOUT, page 4
Trade, Industries and Fisheries Minster Monica
Mæland examines coal inside the Lunckefjell
mine during a visit to Svalbard in 2014.
'Shocking' cuts at NPI
10% staff cut reportedly sought
by Norwegian Polar Institute;
director says Svalbard may gain
A researcher measures light under the sea ice as part of the Norwegian Polar Institute's six-month
Lance expedition north of Svalbard, one of the agency's most visible and costly projects ever.
Soviet secrecy
Fire in mine
concealed for
Page 2
Explosive discovery
magpie is the
Page 3
Employes and union leaders are expressing anger at reports the Norwegian Polar Institute is seeking a 10 percent reduction in staff,
but the director said virtually all departures
will be voluntary and the agency's activities in
Svalbard and elsewhere should benefit from
the effort to improve cost efficiencies.
News of the cutbacks caught many by surprise since the institute has been emphasizing
its increased activities in the Arctic, including
the current high-profile and high-budget expedition by Lance in the sea ice north of Svalbard. But Jan-Gunnar Winther, the institute's
director, emphasized the reductions are not
drastic and come at a time when many government agencies are being asked to trim costs.
Environmental earmarks
Store Norske
gets lion's
share of grants
Page 4
See SCIENTISTS, page 3
Polar posturing
Russia in focus
as U.S. heads
Arctic Council
April 28, 2015
Page 2
Who's to blame and how
to express your wrath
It all depends what the meaning of 'winning' is
Mark Sabbatini
Principal of principles
Kristan Hutchison
Irene Gallion
Jeff Newsom
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Caroline Landmark and Jorge Cuadrado Reyes pass the starting line of the 23rd annual Svalbard
Skimaraton several minutes after a multitude of world-class racers and other competitors Saturday
morning. The pair's late start, which had something to do with a "little trouble with the bus,"
ensured they avoided the crowds resulting from a record 900 participants during much of the 42kilometer race through Todalen. Johan Kjølstad was the overall winner with a time of two hours,
five minutes and 36.8,seconds, beating Øystein Pettersen's second-place finish in 2:07:16. Astrid
Øyreslind was the women's winner with a time of 2:26:39. Participants described conditions as
ideal, with temperatures slightly below freezing, clear skies, little or no wind, and stable snow.
Random bits of the week's weirdness:
If people sense Russia isn't exactly buckling
under the heat as other nations are becoming
increasingly hostile due its Arctic aggressiveness, it's because they've got a remarkable history of concealing its woes and ambitions.
We're not sure which of the following is more
mind-boggling: that a fire in the Pyramiden
mine was still burning 18 months after it
started, or that Russia kept it a secret from
Norway for 30 years. A report last Tuesday by
TV2 reveals the fire started Feb. 12, 1972, and
was still burning in August of 1973. "If these
failures had been known to the Norwegian authorities, they could have been used to damage
Soviet interests on Spitsbergen," KGB Chief
Vasilij Mitrok wrote in a letter that month to
the Soviet Union's Central Committee, according to the TV station. The health and safety of
the workers was reportedly overlooked as well,
with operations continuing despite several explosions coal dust more than ten times the legal
limit and 626 safety violations during the first
five months of 1973. Nutrition from fresh food
was also described as scant, with 200 grams of
tomatoes and one lemon among the provisions
in one person's yearly ration. Norway's Police
Security Service finally learned about the fire
in 2002 from their British counterparts in the
Secret Intelligence Service … Meanwhile, the
old Soviet mentality is still thriving today as
the quarreling continues about Russian Deputy
Fearing the KGB more than explosions? It
takes a special kind of motivation to get folks to
go to a worksite that's been on fire for 18 months.
Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozan's unwanted
visit here earlier this month. While some media
are playing up the incident when reporting the
Norwegian government's support for a Store
Norske bailout and others are focusing on Russia's insistence that "Norway has no right to
stop anyone from visiting Svalbard," we're intrigued by how the Russian state-owned media keeps dutifully reporting Rogozan
"spent no more than an hour on Svalbard."
Since the reports also usually remind readers
he was indulging in his Twitter habit during the
visit, it takes a remarkable bit of doublethink to
accept the claim since a message was sent from
Barentsburg four hours and 53 minutes after
his first tweet from Svalbard Airport.
Icepeople as you know it may be gone forever after this week – so please help!
Don't panic: the world's coolest newspaper will still be here delivering Svalbard's finest bathroom reading
experience, but this may be the last skinny four-page newspaper we publish as we've finally gotten a few
advertisers. While they have our undying thanks (and hopefully your support), they will only pay for part of
the increased costs we'll incur as we expand to eight pages and possibly beyond. So if you appreciate the
extra effort, take a moment to visit icepeople.net and help by purchasing a "subscription" of any amount.
Page 3
April 21, 2015
Longyearbyen's population
up, but fewer from Norway
Researchers and crew participating in the Lance expedition salvage equipment around the research
ship as the sea ice breaks up earlier this month. The project is scheduled to continue until summer.
NPI looking to trim costs, staff
SCIENTISTS, from page 1
"We expect to come out strengthened after
this," he said. "We have had 10 years of growth
behind us. A number of Norwegian governmental institutions are asked to be more efficient.
We're looking for areas we can get more return
for our money to make certain we are using
our money in most efficient way possible."
Union representatives have stated the institute is seeking a 10 percent reduction of its 170
employees due to an expected lower allocation
of funds in next year's national budget.
"Employers are within their rights to offer
voluntary severance packages to employees
without going into negotiations with the
unions, but we have indicated that we disagree
with the institute since the budget for 2016 is
not to be submitted before the fall," said Arild
Sundfjord, a representative for The Norwegian
Association of Researchers, in an interview
with the iTromsø.
But Winther said there is no fixed total of
staff cuts. He said graphics design, affecting
two employees, is being eliminated because
less work is being performed in that area. In
addition, an unspecified number of employees
are being offered voluntary severance packages – but no additional layoffs are planned if
few accept.
"If everyone says no there will not be a
second round," Winther said.
Ivar Stokkeland, a representative for the
Norwegian Civil Service Union, told iTromsø
the severance plan is vague and is sending a
negative message to employees.
"Our members are shocked, angry, frustrated and angry," he said. "Most people would
say no to a severance payment, but the signal
from the employer is still that we would like to
see you stop. There is not a particularly good
mood in the department at the moment. People
have not been given a particularly good explanation for the selection of who is on the cut
Winther said the institute is also seeking to
use more efficient logistics to lower the cost of
research cruises and reduce other travel costs
where appropriate.
"Of course there is frustration in the institute, but this is a very limited downscaling of
employees," he said.
"It's a number of measures we would like
to activate to make us more efficient and flexible for new task. It's not one single thing."
Svalbard is likely to benefit from the effort
since it is an area of increasing importance for
the institute and Norway, Winther said.
"There is a need in Svalbard to structure
activities more broadly within several sectors,
including research and education," he said.
There's more! Visit www.icepeople.net
for the complete story.
Longyearbyen's population of 2,127 as of
the end of 2014 is 161 more than at the end of
2006, but the number of Norwegians declined
by 130 during that time. Kjerstin Askholt, director general of Norway's Ministry of Justice
and Public Security's Polar Affairs Department,
said she has long been aware of the trend and
the issue is being addressed in a revised "white
paper" outlining policy goals for Svalbard. But
while maintaining a strong Norwegian presence
in the archipelago is an important strategic
goal, she and other officials declined to characterize the trend as negative since the Svalbard
Treaty allows all signature nations to have
equal access. Longyearbyen Mayor Christin
Kristoffersen said projects such as a new longterm industry strategic plan and the proposal
for expanding Longyearbyen's port are being
done with an eye on developing a future community with a Norwegian foundation.
Expert: First magpie spotted
in Svalbard is the 'bomb'
The first-ever sighting of a magpie in
Svalbard, photographed last week on
Bjørnøya, is the 213th bird species registered
in the archipelago, according to the Norwegian
Nature Inspectorate. "That's what ornithologists
call a bomb," said Georg Bangjord, an ornithologist and senior adviser for the agency. "It is
unclear how it has brought itself there. Magpies
don't have the flying characteristics to survive
such a trip physically. So I think there must
have been very special conditions for it to
have a clear passage across the ocean on its
own wings. Another possibility is that the
magpie was pulled out of the sea and simply
been a stowaway on a boat."
Man falls off trawler, found
dead in water east of Hopen
A man who fell off a Lithuanian trawler
Sunday morning east of Hopen was dead
when his shipmates found him, according to
The Governor of Svalbard. The Plutonas requested assistance for a search after discovering the man was missing at about 8 a.m., but
notified the governor shortly after he'd been
Weather forecast for Longyearbyen
Partly cloudy. SW winds to 18
km/h. High -7C (-10C wind
chill), low -7C (-11C wind chill).
24-hour daylight
Partly cloudy. W winds to 18
km/h. High -6C (-10C wind
chill), low -8C (-12C wind
24-hour daylight
Partly cloudy. NW winds to 29
km/h. High -5C (-11C wind
chill), low -8C (-13C wind chill).
Cloudy. NW winds to 29 km/h.
High -3C (-8C wind chill), low
-6C (-11C wind chill).
24-hour daylight
24-hour daylight
Extended forecast: Sunday, p. cloudy, -3C (-6C), -6C (-10C), light 24:00h; Monday, clear, -5C (-8C), -7C (-11C), light 24:00h;
Tuesday, clear, -3C (-6C), -7C (-11C), light 24:00h; Wednesday, p. cloudy, -2C (-6C), -4C (-8C), light 24:00h
Data provided by storm.no
April 28, 2015
Page 4
What's up
April 29
8 p.m.: Spring jazz concert by the
Longyearbyen Big Band. Coalminers
Cabin in Nybyen..
May 1
5 p.m.: May Day Mass w/ music by the
Longyearbyen Mixed Choir. Svalbard
May 3
11 a.m.: Mass. Svalbard Church.
Busloads of tourists enter Mine 3 for a concert during the fall of 2013. Store Norske plans to turn the
closed mine into a museum in time for the company's 100th anniversary next year.
A motherload for mine museum
2.5M environmental grant to
Store Norske dominates 7.3M
awarded to 32 Svalbard projects
The environment may not be good at Store
Norske right now – and many argue the
struggling coal company isn't good for the
environment – but it is the dominant winner in
the latest round of grants aimed at protecting
Svalbard's nature and cultural heritage.
A 2.5-million-kroner grant to help the
company turn the closed Mine 3 into a
museum accounts for more than a third of the
7.3 million kroner awarded to 32 projects by
the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund
last week.
The company was also the single-largest
grant recipient last fall, getting 835,000 kroner
for the museum and another tourism project.
The full list of this spring's grant recipient
is available at tinyurl.com/nrwlk2h. The next
grant application deadline is Sept. 15.
There's more! Visit www.icepeople.net
for the complete story.
Protection, not profits, spur aid?
BAILOUT, from page 1
the mining company to continue, but there is
no guarantee that market conditions ahead are
good enough to provide a basis for further coal
mining in the long term."
The bailout must still be approved by Parliament, although statements supporting Store
Norske by leaders of several political parties
suggest a sold majority in favor exists.
Store Norske, after losing a record 537
million kroner in 2014, submitted a request in
January for a 450-million-kroner, 50 million
kroner of which was intended for a new subsidiary focusing on other industries such as logistics and infrastructure. Annette Malm
Justad, chairwoman of Store Norske's board of
directors, stated in an e-mail interview the government's bailout does not including funding
for the proposed subsidiary.
"This solution will ensure coal mining can
be carried out through 2016," she wrote. "Continuing operations beyond this depends on
three factors: Coal prices have to come up to a
"This book does not only
cover comprehensive
information concerning all
fields of possible interest,
but is at the same time a
photo book containing
many color images to
illustrate many wildlife
and flower species and to
document landscapes and
places from all over the
- Reader review
somewhat higher level, Store Norske must be
able to reduce its costs further and the company must succeed in extracting added value by
selling coal to new areas of utilization."
But while the company is focusing on how
to continue mining despite what may be a
long-term drop in coal prices, government officials and observers are evaluating the
company's role in maintaining Norway's presence in Svalbard, which is facing challenges
from Russia and other countries.
"Such a subsidiary loan is totally contrary
to what is the business policy the conservatives
otherwise stands for," an editorial in Dagbladet
noted. "But here we are talking about something more and something bigger. Norway
must assert its sovereignty over the archipelago
and the Svalbard Treaty is not sufficient. A
comprehensive and visible presence is needed,
and Store Norske is still an essential part of the
Svalbard community."
There's more! Visit www.icepeople.net
for the complete story.
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5 p.m.: Movie: "Get Hard," U.S. comedy,
ages 11 and up. Kulturhuset.
7 p.m.: Movie: "Skammerens Datter,"
Danish action/adventure, ages 11 and
up. Kulturhuset.
May 4
8 p.m.: Trivia quiz. Barentz Pub.
May 5
7 p.m.: Longyearbyen Community
Council meeting. Næringsbygget 3,
Newtontoppen room.
7 p.m.: Longyearbyen Kultureskole 20th
anniversary concert. Svalbard Church.
May 6
6 p.m.: Movie: "Skammerens Datter,"
Danish action/adventure, ages 11 and
up. Kulturhuset.
May 7
6 p.m.: Concert by Longyearbyen
Kultureskole students. Kulturhuset.
7:30 p.m.: Concert by Siri Nilsen.
May 10
11 a.m.: Mass. Svalbard Church.
5 p.m.: Movie: "Get Hard," U.S. comedy,
ages 11 and up. Kulturhuset.
7 p.m.: "Stamen," Dutch/Ukrainian
drama/romace, ages 15 and up.
May 11
8 p.m.: Trivia quiz. Barentz Pub.
May 12
7 p.m.: Evening Mass and fireplace
social. Svalbard Church.
What's online
Icepeople.net provides daily updates of
news about Svalbard and the world's
polar regions, plus extras for articles from
the print edition. Among the latest news:
● Stocks fuel oil wealth fund's record year
● Norway's finance minister: climate skeptic
● Claim: Shell lies about Arctic oil risks
● Water in Antarctica a sign of life on Mars?

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