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Flag of Svalbard
Location of Svalbard
and largest city
Official languages Norwegian
Ethnic groups
Government Region of Norway
• Governor
Odd Olsen Ingerø (2009–)
• Total
61,022 km2 (23,561 sq mi)
• 2012[1] estimate

Svalbard is a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean. It is the most northern part of Norway. It is about halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Spitsbergen is the largest island, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. The islands are governed by the Governor of Svalbard. The government is located at Longyearbyen. Other settlements include research outposts, the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund and the mining outpost of Sveagruva.

The islands were first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries. After this, they were abandoned. Coal mining started at the beginning of the 20th century, and several permanent villages were built. The Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 states that Norway is in control of Svalbard. The 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard part of Norway. These treaties also set out rules that economic activities could be done freely and that no military activities can take place. There are only two mining companies, one Norwegian and one Russian. Research and tourism are important industries. There are no roads to connect the settlements. Instead, snowmobiles, aircraft and boats serve as transport. Svalbard Airport in Longyearbyen is the main airport.

The islands have an Arctic climate. It has higher temperatures than other areas that far north. In summer, the plants grow quickly during the midnight sun. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds. There are also polar bears, reindeer, and mammals that live in the sea. Seven national parks and 23 nature reserves cover two-thirds of Svalbard. This protects the fragile natural environment. Sixty percent of land is covered by glaciers, and the islands have many mountains and fjords.


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