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A Town of Mining, Tourism and Science

Administrative Centre of Svalbard

General Information

About Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen is the largest city and the administrative center of Svalbard, located in the Isfjorden bay in the western part of Spitsbergen. In 2005, it had 2,144 inhabitants, 85% of which were Norwegians and the remaining 15% were immigrants from Thailand, Sweden, Russia and the Ukraine. Until 1990, it was almost exclusively a mining settlement, and later it became a tourist and scientific center.

More Information

Against the Climate

Mining began to be taken into account here as early as in 1900. In 1905, an American businessman John Munroe Longyear and Frederick Ayer founded the Arctic Coal Company here and the settlement became known as the City of Longyear. The first miners came from Norway and Sweden, while the management was from the United States or England. Living and working conditions were quite poor, there was a shortage of water and tasty food, so there were often strikes. In 1916, the mine was sold to the Norwegians, and in 1926 the city gained its present name. In the 1960s, the mine underwent modernisation, then it was taken over by the government. Coal has been mined here until today in Adentdalen, which is 15 km away. 70,000 tons of coal are produced each year, 25,000 tons of which powers the Longyear Power Plant, the only coal-run power plant in Norway.

The city was almost completely destroyed during World War II, with the exception of the hospital, the power plant, an office building and one residential building. The local cemetery functioned until 1950 but when it was noticed that the bodies did not decompose, it was moved to a different place.

Since the airport was opened in 1975, the city has changed its character to a more family-oriented one. Private houses, a farm with animals, radio, tv, then kindergardens, a fire station, roads, garbage cans, sewage system, a cinema and a library have appeared successively. In 1920 the Norwegian Church sent the first vicar here. In 2001 local authorities were elected.

In Longyearbyen there is the University Center of Svalbard (UNIS), gathering about 40 lecturers, 120 guest lecturers and 350 students. However, the university does not grant academic degrees, but offers semester courses in biology, physics and geology. There is also the Norwegian Polar Institute and the headquarters of the Governor of Svalbard here.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a Global Seed Bank near Longyearbyen. There are seeds of edible plants from around the world. Ultimately, there will be 4.5 million grains. The bank is located in a tunnel hollowed in permafrost, so there is a sub-zero temperature here. There is no electricity or permanent staff.

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