Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Last private land on Svalbard up for sale for €300 million

Svalbard archipelago.
Photo: Thomas Nilsen
From The Barents Observer by Thomas Nilsen
With 60 square kilometers, about the size of Manhattan, and a coastline of five kilometers, the unique faraway property on Svalbard is a geopolitical hotspot in a warming Arctic.

It is AS Kulspids that is up for sale, a company holding the only privately owned land on Svalbard.
“A unique opportunity to acquire the company holding the last remaining private owned land on Svalbard with significant environmental, scientific and economic importance,” reads the short text in the online advert.
Localization with the GeoGarage platform (NHS nautical raster chart)
The land, named “Søre Fagerfjord” in the Svalbard Treaty, is located on the southwestern coast of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the archipelago halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
“This is the only possibility for a buyer to get a position in the High Arctic and establish a strategic foothold,” said Per Kyllingstad to Bloomberg.
Kyllingstand is the lawyer representing the sellers.

No-one, except polar bears and Arctic foxes, live at the property in the inner part of Recherchefjorden. A cabin was built here in 1918 as AS Kulspids wanted to explore for coal and asbest. No commercial resources were discovered.

Today’s owners of the company are Norwegians and the starting bid is €300 million.
The buyer can be a country that have ratified the Svalbard Treaty or citizens of such countries or any company legally based in such country.
The 1920 Svalbard Treaty is signed by 46 countries, among them China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
Science and climate research

Few places on the planet is warming faster than Svalbard.
Last July saw heat record for Longyearbyen with an average temperature of 10,1 degrees Celsius.
That was first time with a middle temperature above the meteorological term “Polar Climate” for an entire month.

Scientists are worried and the international interest to monitor how climate changes affect the Arctic is growing.

Today, only Norway and Russia have permanent settlements at Svalbard; Longyearbyen and Barentsburg.
Poland has a small polar research station at Hornsund, while Norway facilitates for multiple nation research presence at Ny-Ålesund.
Moscow has expressed a desire to create a Arctic research hub for BRICS countries in the Russian ghost town of Pyramiden, but so far little has materialized.

It is, however, not open for a potential buyer to use the property for any kind of commercial activity. Norway’s strict environmental laws apply, although Norwegian authorities cannot discriminate any residents of signature countries.
Svalbard is visa-free, but the only commercial flights to the archipelago go via Tromsø and Oslo, airports that require Schengen-visa for travelers in transit to Longyearbyen.

Last time a private property was up for sale on Svalbard was in 2016, when the Norwegian Horn-family sold Austre Adventfjord, a Treaty mentioned piece of land across the fjord from Longyearbyen.
Austre Adventfjord was sold for 300 million kroner (€26 million) to the Norwegian state after the Chinese billionaire and property tycoon Huang Nubo said he would bid for the property.

Svalbard is Norwegian territory. About 60% of the land is covered by glaciers.
Here from the southwestern shore of Spitsbergen island.
Photo: Thomas Nilse

Satellite communication business

Although environmental laws likely will hinder mining activity at the property now up for sale, businesses like a satellite station might be built.

Article 4 of the Svalbard Treaty allows for land owners to “establish and use their own purposes wireless telegraphy installations, which shall be free to communicate on private business with fixed or moving wireless stations…”

AS Kulspids highlights this options and writes on its portal that “The very northern position of Svalbard creates unique conditions for satellite communication.”

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