Mining on Bear Island

At the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, in the context of the German Empire’s efforts at colonial and economic expansion, several German expeditions investigated the coal deposit on Bear Island, now part of Spitsbergen.

The initiators of these explorative journeys included the Deutscher Seefischerei-Verein (German Sea Fishing Association), coal trading companies, and private individuals. One aim was to use the coal mined on Bear Island to refuel the German fishing fleet, and thus gain access to the rich fishing grounds of the subarctic seas. It appears that the possibility of exporting the coal to Scandinavia was also considered; growth was predicted here, and clearly there were hopes of developing new markets. Although there have been some publications on German polar research, there has as yet been no scholarly study which has dealt adequately with the political, economic and technological background to these activities.
The planned investigation of the German activities in the Arctic Ocean in the late Empire is simultaneously conceived as a sample study on the significance of raw materials and mining for the German Empire’s efforts to expand. The aim is to publish a monograph, but at present there are no specific plans regarding the form in which the findings will be presented, or the length of the publication.

Project manager

Dr. Stefan Przigoda

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum


Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum



2009 - 2012


  • Przigoda, S., 2012, Bergbau auf der Bäreninsel? Deutsche Rohstoffinteressen und die Erkundung Svalbards (1871-1914), in: Lüdecke, C; Brunner, K. (Hrsg.), Von A(Altenbrurg) bis Z(eppelin). Deutsche Forschung auf Spitzbergen bis 1914. 100 Jahre Expedition des Herzogs Ernst II. von Sachsen-Altenburg. Schriftenreihe des Instituts für Geodäsie der Universität der Bundeswehr München, Heft 88, Neubiberg, S. 77-91.