Sanctions, ice halt construction of Arctic coal mine

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - December 6, 2023
118

The Syradasayskoye coal mine was to produce several million tons of of high-quality coal already in 2024. But developer Severnaya Zvezda does not have any of the vessels needed for shipping through the thick Arctic sea-ice

The Yenisey Bay terminal will serve the Syradasayskoye coal project (Photo: syradasay.com)

Coal has been a key part of the ambitious Russian plans to boost shipments on the Northern Sea Route to 80 million tons by 2024.

But the black carbon-rich rocks might not constitute a major shipping commodity on the Arctic route any time soon.

The developer of the Syradasayskoye mine in the Taymyr Peninsula is still a long way from building a fleet of vessels needed for the shipment of the coal through the remote Arctic waters.

Severnaya Zvezda originally planned to build a major fleet of ice-class carriers designed for sailing through Arctic sea-ice, and the first two of them were to be in operation by the end of 2025.

However, so far, Severnaya Zvezda has not signed a single contract on ship building, newspaper Kommersant reports.

Previously, company representatives have said that 16 ships of the Arcticmax class are needed, each with a 90,000 tons carrying capacity.

Coal digging on the Taymyr tundra (Photo: syradasay.com)

Severnaya Zvezda is a subsidiary unit of Arctic Energy, a company owned by Roman Trotsenko.

Arctic Energy was included on the US sanctions list this year.

Although Roman Trotsenko himself is not on the list, the US authorities have targeted key parts of his business empire.

In November 2023, the Trotsenko family’s flagship private investment vehicle AEON was put on the list, along with 16 other connecting companies. Trotsenko is believed to stand close to Vladimir Putin and his people in the Kremlin.

Without the projected fleet of carriers, Trotsenko’s Severnaya Zvezda will have to lean on foreign ships to export coal from the Taymyr Peninsula. That, however, could prove itself difficult following the inclusion in the U.S sanctions.

Meanwhile, Severnaya Zvezda reportedly continues to develop infrastructure and production facilities in the remote Taymyr.

According to the company, a powerful ship-loading machine will by early 2024 be set up at the project port terminal. It has the capacity to load as much as 3,000 tons of coal per hour.

In addition, seaport development on the coast of the Yenisey Bay continues along with dredging in adjacent waters. A working village with 5,500 square meter of housing space is already built and the 56km long road that connects the coal mine with the seaport is ready.

According to the company, it is China and the Asian market that will be key destination for the Syradasayskoye coal. The plan is that ice-class ships will shuttle to the Yenisey Bay accompanied by powerful icebreakers.

But none of that will happen unless Severnaya Zvezda gets hold of the needed ships.


Located in Kirkenes, Norway, just a few kilometres from the borders to Russia and Finland, the Barents Observer is dedicated to cross-border journalism in Scandinavia, Russia and the wider Arctic.

As a non-profit stock company that is fully owned by its reporters, its editorial decisions are free of regional, national or private-sector influence. It has been a partner to ABJ and its predecessors since 2016.