• 02/16/2015
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Iron ore producers all over the Barents Region take crisis measures as prices drops to new lows. For the Swedish LKAB company, 2014 profits plummeted by more than 90 percent.

    The dramatic drop in iron prices is hitting Sweden's biggest iron miner with full force. In 2014, the company got its year-on-year operating profit cut by 93 percent, the LKAB Year-end Report reads. President and CEO Lars-Eric Aaro is now announcing a string of crisis measures, among them cost cuts of 700 million SEK (€73 million) and a staff reduction of 400 people, BarentsObserver reports.

    Prices on iron ore in late 2014 dropped to USD 66/ton, the lowest level in five years. And the...

  • 01/21/2015
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    An ailing power industry looks for ways to modernize and get cleaner. A deal with China is seen as part of the solution.

    Arkhangelsk Oblast is heavily dependent on the themal power produced by TGC-2, the major inter-regional generating company serving five federal subjects in northwest and central Russia. The region's three main generating plants, one in Arkhangelsk City and two in the neigboring city of Severodvinsk, all remain in need of major upgrade.

    The plants, built in 1970, 1976 and 1946 respectively, were originally run on coal and heavy oil (mazut). After 2011, both the Severodvinsk Heat and Power Plant No 2 and the Arkhangelsk Heat and Power Plant were transformed from mazut to natural gas, consequently cutting emissions and costs. The Severodvinsk Plant No 1...

  • 01/12/2015
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    The price for a normal Russian food basket is on a rapid increase as inflation in the country surges. Consumer price growth in the five Barents Russian regions in November reached its highest level in six years.

    The average inflation rate in five northwest Russian regions in November alone increased by more than one percent, BarentsObserver reports. The trend continued in December. In Murmansk, monthly prices on basic foodstuff like frozen fish, eggs and beef increased more than eight, twelve and six percent respectively, figures from the regional office of the Russian Statistical Service (Rosstat) show.

    Inflation in Russia has been stable between 6-9 percent since 2009, and...

  • 01/08/2015
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

  • 12/18/2014
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

  • 12/03/2014
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    The Finnish company Fortum gets comprehensive ownership of hydropower capacities in Northwest Russia.

    The deal signed between the three companies will give Fortum ownership over all of TGC-1’s hydropower assets in Murmansk Oblast, the Republic of Karelia and Leningrad Oblast. In addition, the Finnish company will take over a 15...

  • Figures from road authorities show that more than 600 people will die on regional roads in 2014.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Despite improved road standards, lethal car accidents continue to haunt travellers in the Barents Region. The number of death collisions in higher in 2014 compared with the previous year.

    Talking to her regional government this month, Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun expressed major concern about the high number of people killed on regional roads. Figures from the road authorities show that a total of 60 people were killed in traffic accidents in the first nine months of the year, a 53 percent increase compared with the same period in 2013, BarentsObserver reports.

    The situation in Murmansk is not unique. After several years of decrease, the road...

  • Patchwork Barents presents the latest data on higher education in the Barents Region.
    By Elizaveta Vassilieva, Barents Secretariat

    Higher education is becoming an increasingly common trend in the Barents Region, BarentsObserver reports. In the last twenty-three years (1990-2013), the average rate of higher education attainment in the Barents Region has almost doubled itself.

    The highest rate of tertiary education attainment can be found among the population of Västerbotten, Sweden. In 2013, 31.5 % of the population aged fifteen or higher held a higher (university level) education degree. 

    The five Russian Barents counties rank relatively low, compared to the rest of the Barents Region. In Murmansk Oblast, which has the highest tertiary education rate on the Russian side, the share of population holding a higher education degree is...

  • The national economy is faltering, but unemployment figures in Russia are historically low.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Figures from Russia’s State Statistical Service(Rosstat) show that unemployment in the country in September reached a record-low 4,9 percent, a decrease of 0,5 percent year-on-year and of more than one percent since early 2013, BarentsObserver reports.

    The figures were highlighted by President Vladimir Putin during the G20 Summit in Brisbane. According to the president, Russia is allocating ”significant resources” to the fight against unemployment. ”Now we have only 4,9 percent unemployment […] which is far better than many of our partners”, Putin underlined in a press conference.

    The situation is reflected also in the Russian regions, although with major alterations. In...

  • EU dependency and weak economy in the meat sector may lead to job loss in Norway's second largest mainland business.
    By Elizaveta Vassilieva, Barents Secretariat

    Figures from Patchwork Barents show a declining trend in the number of cattle in the Barents Region, the BarentsObserver reports. For example, in the period 1999-2012 the number of cattle went down with almost one-third in Troms County (see visualizations below the story). 

    The biggest changes in cattle husbandry were observed in Northwestern Russia. In Arkhangelsk Oblast, the number of cattle had dropped over 84 percent between...