• The lion’s share of processed goods in the Barents Region is out-transported by rail. Now, Finnish industrialists eye a new line to the Norwegian Arctic coast.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Business interests in northern Finland have long lobbyed the project, and are now increasingly successful in lifting it up to the national agenda, BarentsObserver reports.

    In a Northern Finland Strategy Paper written by two northern county adminstrations and handed over to the Finnish government in spring this year, the railway project is presented as a key priority in national Arctic policy.  The paper reads that  "Finland has to make a strategic alignment together with Norway of a railway...

  • After several golden years, a string of regional mining companies is threatened by closure. One of the smaller mining companies in Scandinavia, the Northern Iron, is increasingly struggling to make ends meet.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    The Barents Region is highly rich in minerals and metals and iron ore production is conducted in northern Sweden, Norway and Russia. While regional production has increased steadily over several years, the current downturn in raw material prices threatens the companies with a major setback.

    “We believe we can make it”, a company representative of Northern Iron in Kirkenes, Norway, said in a company presentation in Kirkenes this week. The Northern Iron has not made net profits since it started up mining in Arctic Norway in 2009, and deficits are steadily growing. However, the company still appears confident that it will make it through the industry downturn, BarentsObserver reports....

  • There are plenty of airports in the Barents Region. But only few companies fly east-west. Now, a Russian company breaks new ground with regular flights between the regional capitals of Arkhangelsk and Syktyvkar.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    “Everyone, who earlier had to go through Moscow or St Petersburg to travel between Arkhangelsk and the capital of the Komi Republic, will now get a direct connection”, Mikhail Martynov, Deputy Head of the Arkhagnelsk regional Transport Agency said at at the official opening of the route.

    The direct route between the regions have been strongly supported by the regional leaders, among them Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Orlov, BarentsObserver reports.

    Regional authorities and the companies involved in the operations now also consider the possible extention of the route, including international cooperation, a press release from...

  • Acting governors in Barents Russia won comfortable victories in Sunday's elections. But the average voter turnout was significantly down.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    While acting Nenets Govenor Igor Koshin won 76,7 percent of the votes in his Nenets AO, Vyacheslav Gayzer in the neighboring Komi Republic won even bigger, with as much as 78,9 percent, BarentsObserver reports.

    Voter turnout in the two regions was 43 and 59,06 percent respectively, Regnum reports.

    According to the Komi Election Commission, voter turnout in the republic was the highest ever in the history of Komi governor’s elections. The same was not the case in Murmansk Oblast, where voter turnout plummeted to a historical low. As reported by BarentsObserver, only 31 percent of the Murmansk electorate...

  • The Russian Arctic region is accumulating debts as spending increases.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Murmansk in the first half of 2014 had a budget deficit close to 20 percent, figures presented recently by regional finance minister Roman Duryagin show. According to the minister, the region in the period spent 24,8 billion roubles while revenues were only 20,9 billion, BarentsObserver reports.

    As previously reported, Murmansk has over several years struggled with budget deficits and slow growth. According to figures from Patchwork Barents, industrial production in the region has been negative for the past three years. Similarly, Murmansk was the region with the slowest pace in residential buildings in the whole Barents Region. Until year 2011, Murmansk still...

  • Russia’s biggest producer of mineral fertilizers boosts profites profits from its apatite industry in the Kola Peninsula.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Phosagro is experiencing a growing demand on its raw materials and a subsequent price hike. In July, the market price on diammonium phosphate increased to $500/ton, a 25 percent growth since January. The stock market value of the company has subsequently increased by almost a third, to $4,9 billion, BarentsObserver reports.

    At the same time, Phosagro is conducting major cost cuts and reorganizing company structures. Only in 2013-2014, the company is reducing its staff in Murmansk Oblast with as much as 3500 jobs. The company itself maintains that the lion’s share of the staff cuts consists of early pensions and tranfer of employees to other company units.

    Earlier this year,...

  • On the backdrop of political chill, trade between Finland and Russia is dropping sharply. Also tourism between the countries is in a downswing. That hits hard on the the region of Lapland.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Figures from the Finnish Customs show that exports and imports to Russia the first three months of the year dropped 16 percent and 18 percent respectively.

    According to a new report, all main export goods to Russia are on the decline. The biggest export product groups, chemical products and motor and machinery dropped 22 percent and 20 percent respectively. The total value of the exports in the period amounted to €1,06 billion while imports was €2,33 billion, BarentsObserver reports.

    Significant is also the trend in Finnish tourism, a sector highly dependent of Russian visitors. Figures from Statistics Finland show that the number of Russian tourists in Finland is decreasing...

  • Barents gold is currently mined in several parts of the region, although Finland stands out as the leading European goldminer. With an annual output of five tonnes, Lapland is expected to produce gold for at least another twenty years.
    By Elizaveta Vassilieva, Barents Secretariat

    As the price on gold has reached record heights, the Barents Region brings its noble riches to the fore, BarentsObserver reports.

    Gold is produced in several parts of the Barents Region. In Norrbotten and Västerbotten gold has been mined for years. The Swedish metals company Boliden operates production at the Aitik mine (Norrbotten) and the Boliden Area (Västerbotten). The combined annual production in these two mining areas amounts to about 3.5 tonnes of gold.

    The Swedish mines have been producing gold over a relatively long time, although their output is significantly smaller than Finland’s. Lapland is considered as the number one goldminer not only in the Barents Region, but also in Europe...

  • Industrial companies in the country in 2013 fired more than 30 thousand workers. A significant number of them live in the Barents Region.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Five of Russia’s leading mining and metallurgy companies last year alone dismissed close to 35000 people in a bid to optimize production and save costs. The companies Evraz, Magnitogorsk Metallurgy Company, Severstal, the Novolipetsky Metallurgy Company and Mechel all face serious economic hardships following lower demands and raw material prices, BarentsObserver reports.

    The job cuts are expected to continue. In an interview with newspaper Vedomosti, Severstal leader Aleksey Mordashov confirms that the ”optimization of the number of workers will continue” and that the company ”does not...

  • While the world is talking about an Arctic meltdown, another type of “ice” is building up in the North. Extraction of diamonds is an increasingly promising part of the Barents mining industry.
    By Elizaveta Vassilieva, Barents Secretariat

    The Barents diamonds come from Arkhangelsk Oblast. It is one of the three northernmost locations in the world where diamonds are extracted (along with Yakutia and Canada), the BarentsObserver reports.  

    Production in Arkhangelsk Oblast is operated by one of the youngest mining enterprises in Russia, the OJSC Severalmaz (“North diamond”). The company was established in 1992 to develop the Lomonosov field. 95 percent of the company’s stock is owned by ALROSA. Commercial production began in 2006, and has since had an annual production capacity of about 500 thousand carats. 

    Production at the Lomonosov field has boomed,...