Frozen plans: building of far northern coal mine halted by sanctions and Arctic ice

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

As soon as in 2023, the Syradasayskoye coal mine was to produce several million tons of high-quality coal, but developer Severnaya Zvezda does not have any of the vessels needed for shipping through the thick Arctic sea-ice.

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 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 shipbuilding, 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:

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

Arctic Energy was included in the U.S sanctions list this year.

Although Roman Trotsenko himself is not on the list, the U.S 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 be set up at the project port terminal in the early days of 2024. It can 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 meters of housing space is already built and the 56 km 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 the 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.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Community in northern Quebec to make the jump from diesel to hydroelectricity, CBC News

Finland: The world could transition entirely to cheap, safe renewable energy before 2050: Finnish study, Yle News

Norway: Norwegian energy giant Equinor exits Russia, calling Ukraine invasion a “setback for the world,” The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Construction starts at new Murmansk LNG hub, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: BLM proposes allowing ConocoPhillips to drill most of its Arctic Willow project, Alaska Public Media

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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