Life of Mine, 2019

Location: Longyearbyen, Svalbard, 78° North (image taken 2017).

Certified limited-edition archival print, (No. of Editions: 5), Dibond, Oak Box frame, Rosewood

Stain & Wax. Glass, Artcare Backing.

Size: W910 x H610 x D35mm

 

Life of Mine depicts an altered landscape at an abandoned coal mining site in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Longyearbyen is a former Norwegian mining town, and the administrative centre of the Svalbard Islands (Spitzbergen) located in the high Arctic. Doolin was drawn to this extreme northern location by her interest in the historical exploitation of this polar region, which spans over 400 years beginning with whaling in the 17th century,  hunting throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and the more recent history of commercial coal mining beginning in 1906.  Although commercial coal mining is no longer profitable in such a remote location the inhabitants of the region are still reliant on coal as a primary source of energy.

 

Life of Mine is a term extracted from a glossary of mining terminology. It is defined as the financial and profitable longevity of ore extraction from a particular mining site. The landscape image illustrates collapsed tundra in the foreground. As global temperatures rise Arctic permafrost thaws, destabilising previously frozen ground, triggering landslides and rapid erosion. As the permafrost melts it releases green-house gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, into the atmosphere contributing to further planetary warming , a cycle known as ‘The Feedback loop’.

 

With geopolitical tensions rising in the Arctic and countries such as Norway, America and Russia recently sanctioning further explorations for carbon resources, contrarily made possible by the melting of the ice. Life of Mine considers perceived actions that value short-term profit over environmental sustainability.

 

Although the image itself was taken in 2017 during an arctic residency programme, in 2020  an article in the Barents Observer reported on flooding at the last operational coal mine in Longyearbyen stating  that ‘ The mountain above the mine is covered by a glacier and it is melting water from this glacier that now penetrates through the rocks into the mine.’