We have to search a bit, then we turn off towards Pasvikdal and quickly reach the small mining town Bjørnevatn. A huge excavator shovel and a monument to the miners shows us: here we are right – here lies the ore trench Sydvaranger gruver Bjørnevatn.

Meeting at Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn

Opposite the waiting house, the oversized shovel of an excavator, is located in the small mining village Bjørnevatn a modern co op. We just have to follow the road and then stand in front of the large entrance gate of the mining company Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn.

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar | © mare.photo

But we take our time, breathe the place to slowly get into the environment of Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn. The visit to this mine near Kirkenes was planned for a long time and accordingly we exchanged ideas with the new mining company in advance. And so we gladly accepted the invitation to visit the mine.

Standstill in Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn

Nothing has moved here for a long time. The gate in front of which I now stand seems orphaned. It is closed. Three historic vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s are the current visiting card of the mine at Kirkenes. But they seem as forgotten as the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn himself.

As changeable as the history of Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn today is the weather. When it has rained for hours, the sky opens and will provide us with great lighting conditions for the next two hours, before the new dark cloud band reaches us again and throws off its ballast.

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar | © mare.photo

So it’s time to meet Egil, who will take me straight across the paths of Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn. Egil has been working here until the last day of operation, today he makes his rounds with his five-year-old brown Labrador Retriever and keeps pondering the busy and busy days here at Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn. He was lucky because he started retirement at the start of Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn’s bankruptcy.

First we make our way to the best vantage point of Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn. “Be careful on the edges ..” is a well-intentioned hint, because there are sometimes some hundred meters in depth. For me, this is a matter of course, how often have I been traveling on large construction sites or in unclear terrain. Every step must be considered and manageable. Egil compares the rugged slopes of the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn with the Preikestolen, because he would never go to the edge – because of his fear of heights.

Arrived by working in Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn

Whether he has been living here for a long time in the far north and what to do the long and dark winter in this area, I would like to know. Originally Egil comes from a small town near Oslo. But the day he arrived here, he never wanted to go back. In the winter he goes out fishing, especially the big king crab with its claws as long as our eight month old son, stand with him firmly on the menu. In addition, there are great ski resorts, if I have already seen them. Yes, it could be a bit stormy here, at the Barebtssee, already. And as soon as the sun came out, he used his five-meter-long Husvagn, the caravan. The stand near the beautiful place Bugøynes, about 40 kilometers entfernt.Dort I must go there once.

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar | © mare.photo

Meanwhile, as arrived on the lookout point, over two kilometers, our view extends over this crater landscape of Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn.

If there are bears in the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, I ask him and show with a smile on the two crater lakes. After all, Bjørn is the translation for Bär and Vatn for water. In fact, there was once a lake where you could meet bears. About four years ago, bears were seen here in the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, as well as reindeer. This is very special, because food does not find both species in this crater landscape. It used to look like the spot we’re standing on. Birches and mosses, berry bushes that are barely higher than ground cover and grasses have shaped the surroundings of the foothills of the Siberian taiga.

Sad view to Russia from Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn

Now our gaze wanders to the highest point, to the transmission tower. “From here you have a fantastic view over to Russia, especially to the local pit in nickel …” Since everything is dead to nature, poisoned. Sometimes the cloud comes over here from the huge chimneys. Well, that does not feel right. Whether he would fish in the Pasvik or drink the local water, I’m interested. He denies both emphatically.

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar | © mare.photo

But even in this pit, the environment was massively destroyed and poisoned. That is different now. The editions are very strict today and people have high hopes for the beginning of a new start.

Egil looks at my Leica M, is a bit surprised that I photograph analog today. He also has an old Leica, with whom he used to photograph for the Labor Party. Today he has to order the films in Germany. I’ll send him some movies, I promise him.

Sleeping Beauty sleep in Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn

We slowly return to the center of the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn Mine and stop in front of the three old vehicles at the entrance. The huge excavator and the equally large dump truck date from around 1960, in between is a small dump truck, which was probably after 1945 in use. For me the little one is the most beautiful construction vehicle. But the big dump truck could reach a total weight of 150 tons and thus take up a lot of the cargo.

And then he shows me the huge gates of an endlessly long hall. “… here the vehicles are being serviced …”

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar

Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. Kodak Ektar | © mare.photo

Restart in Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn

Egil speaks of the future, which has started again for Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn. What started over 100 years ago will finally be continued. The first blasts were recently, a new track is created. Bulldozers push topsoil to the side of the rock, and soon the vehicles and construction machines, which have not been moved for 10 years, will soon be prepared for the old and yet new use. At the beginning of the mining season, he says, people have brought their exploitation with reindeer to the port eight kilometers away, until at some point the rail link was completed. The new operator of the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn is massively recruiting skilled workers here in the often forgotten and almost abandoned north, here in the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn.

Home thanks to Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn

And then Egil whispers to me again about the almost deserted north. “You have to visit Vadsø and Vardø …”. But we were already at the Varangerfjord a few days ago and I can understand his enthusiasm well. Whether we have been to Hamingsberg, that would be the nicest place ever. Oh, how right he is. If only not the nerve-racking road sections with their rugged sloping edges, for the need as a traveler from the North German lowlands sometimes strong nerves.

He did not have to go to the North Cape, because he was too busy. He loves the loneliness and the nice hours in his caravan.

Egil comes to our VW bus and greets our family. “Har det bra …”, we say goodbye, the way you do it here.

We stay a little longer at the Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn, let them continue to act on us. The dark cloud wall has overtaken us again and drops the first drops. That’s the way it is here in the north. But we will come back and see each other when the opencast mine again determines the daily routine of Sydvaranger Gruver Bjørnevatn. In a few months, it should be time again.

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