History

Sydvaranger has a long mining history. Mine inspector Tellef Dahll first discovered iron ore deposits in 1866, and in 1905 Christian A. Anker was granted a permit to mine in Sør-Varanger. German, Swedish and Norwegian private capital was invested in 1906, and the first load of iron ore was railed from the Bjørnevatn ore deposit to the town of Kirkenes in 1910. The towns of Kirkenes and Bjørnevatn both developed as a result of the mining operations. 

The mine operated from 1910 to 1997 with over 200 million tonnes of ore unearthed. Sydvaranger was the largest mine in Norway for most of this period. The mine produced magnetite concentrate (67.5% Fe), super high-grade magnetite concentrate (72% Fe) and iron pellets for the European market. The mine was operated by German forces during World War II. As a result of the considerable conflict in the area and Sydvaranger’s strategic importance, significant damage to infrastructure and facilities was incurred. The mine infrastructure was subsequently rebuilt with the assistance of Marshall Plan funding by the Norwegian government, leading to a highly profitable period for the mine in the 1950’s and 1960’s, as post-war Europe rebuilt. 

Large government investments in long-term infrastructure took place in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s offsetting the challenge of lower iron ore prices. The mine remained government-owned and operated until 1997, as an asset of significant strategic regional importance due to its proximity to Russia. The majority of the capital works from this period remain intact. Extensive production facilities were constructed within and beneath the surrounding country rock in the town of Kirkenes, including: silos to ensure a weatherproof and efficient port operation, a five story underground crusher facility, extensive ancillary underground tunnels and a conveyor network. US$470m was spent on capital works in the 15 years leading up to 1997. Unfortunately the company was forced to close in 1997, due to persistently low iron ore prices and the subsidence of cold war tensions.

Recent history

The mine, rail and processing facilities were refurbished in 2008 and recommissioned in 2009 by ASX-listed Northern Iron Ltd. The mine operated from 2009 to November 2015 with 20 million tonnes of ore mined and 8 million tonnes of magnetite concentrate (68% Fe) sold to Europe, the Middle East and China. The product is well known for its exothermic and low impurity characteristics.

In excess of US$250 million was invested in new equipment, refurbishment and debottlenecking of the processing facilities. The mine and production facilities operated with increasing efficiency, reliability and lower costs until November 2015. However rapid global iron ore market deterioration in 2015 forced the mine to close once again.  

In April 2016, the Tschudi Group acquired the Sydvaranger assets. All equipment necessary for the restart of operations was secured and has since been carefully maintained. All necessary operating permits are also in place, with the mining permit granted in the spring of 2019. A successful and profitable production campaign took place in 2016, producing approximately 100,000 tonnes of high grade iron ore concentrate. The project provided an excellent opportunity to exercise the production line and demonstrate the ability to rapidly restart operations. 

Sydvaranger has since focused its activities on supporting the restart of operations for the long term. This work has included an extensive analytical program to upgrade the geological database from drill core gathered over the past 100 years, an independent verification of the Sydvaranger resources, as well as a completion of all mine engineering designs that will underpin a sustainable and responsible operating plan.   

In 2018, the Tschudi Group entered into a partnership with the US-based fund Orion Mine Finance, which secures the financing of Sydvaranger’s future operations.
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Sydvaranger Industriområde, 9900 Kirkenes, Norway
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