There is a long history of mining in Sør-Varanger. Mine inspector Tellef Dahll discovered iron ore deposits in 1866, and in 1905 Christian A. Anker was granted a permit to mine in Sør-Varanger. German, Swedish and Norwegian private capital was invested in 1906, and the first load of iron ore was railed from Bjørnevatn to Kirkenes in 1910. The towns of Kirkenes and Bjørnevatn developed as a result of the mining operations.
The mine operated from 1910 to 1997 with over 200 Mt of ore mined. Sydvaranger was the largest mine in Norway for most of this period. The mine produced magnetite concentrate (67.5%Fe), super high-grade magnetite concentrate (72% Fe) and iron pellets for the European market. The mine was operated by German forces during World War II and as a result of the considerable conflict in the area and Sydvaranger’s strategic importance, significant damage to infrastructure and facilities was incurred. The mine infrastructure was subsequently rebuilt with Marshall Planfunds by the Norwegian government, leading to a highly profitable period in the1950’s and 1960’s.
Large government investments in long-term infrastructure took place in 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s meeting the challenge of lower iron ore prices in a strategically important part of Norway. The mine was government-owned and operated until 1997 as an asset of regional strategic importance due to proximity to Russia. The majority of the capital works from this period remain intact. Extensive production facilities were constructed within and beneath the surrounding country rock, including: silos to ensure a weatherproof and efficient port operation, a five story underground crusher facility, extensive ancillary underground tunnels and conveyor network. US$470m was spent on capital works in the 15 years leading up to 1997. The company was forced to close due to persistently low iron ore prices in 1997and the subsidence of cold war tensions.