HR ordeal on Svalbard when three key people resigned at the same time

Being responsible for ensuring that the new Lunckefjell mine on Svalbard is ready for operation in March 2015 means being capable of handling numerous challenges. But what do you do when three of the most important people in the project resign, all at the same time?

That is exactly the challenge Kolbjørn Karlsen faced. As head of planning and development with Store Norske Spitsbergen Grubekompani, he is responsible that the new coal mine, 60 kilometres from Longyearbyen, is ready on time.

“When three key associates resigned at the same time, we suddenly found ourselves in a situation where we had to find people with significant expertise fast. We contacted several agencies, but none managed to present a qualified candidate as quickly as InterimLeder. In the course of a few days, on a Monday, we interviewed two candidates, and on Thursday we chose our man for the job. We worked together over the weekend, and on Monday he was up to speed,” Karlsen says.

Running start

For an interim manager the baptism in fire happens on the very first day, and a ‘running start’ is par for the course. For Store Norske the experience of hiring an interim manager was extremely positive:

“When you join a project such as this in the commissioning stage, with equipment worth tens of millions of kroner, you must have done it before. The candidate was up and running in just a few days and did an amazing job. We have therefore continued to use him on one of the largest contracts in the project, which concerns procurement of all mining equipment,” Karlsen states.

The Statoil of the mineral kingdom

For the cornerstone company on Svalbard, which has been called ‘the Statoil of the mineral kingdom,’ the project is running smoothly. They have already driven a tunnel from the old mine Svea Nord and onto the Martha glacier. A road has been built across the glacier to supply water, electricity, fibre cables and sewerage facilities. And at the new mine a surface installation, workshop, office rig and everything the around 320 employees could need has been set up.

Inside Lunckefjell there is at least 8.4 metric tons of coal, which will mainly be sold on the European continent. The mine will be in operation for at least 4-5 years, before operations are moved to a new mine. Coal is actually the world's largest fossil energy reserve, and the five metre high layer of coal on Svalbard is the result of thousands of years of fossilisation of peat.

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