A Norwegian businessman has been slammed by the WWF and locals over plans to cut up a 1,000-year-old Arctic glacier to make ice cubes for designer bars in Dubai and Monaco.
Geir Olsen wants to market ice from the Svartisen glacier, in northern Norway’s Nordland county, to upmarket bars in luxury locations such as Dubai and Monaco, as well as to posh restaurants and cruise ships, but environmentalists and tourism chiefs are opposing the entrepreneur’s brainchild.
Bard Vegar Solhjell, the Secretary General of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Norway, told Central European News (CEN): “This is a very short-sighted and inconsiderate endeavour.
“The Svartisen glacier is melting at a dramatic pace due to human-caused climate change, along with the other 31 large mainland Norwegian glaciers. Just last year Svartisen retreated 140 metres (459 feet).”
Svartisen, Norway’s second biggest glacier, lies just inside the Arctic Circle and is a popular visitor location for tourists.
He has applied for permission to remove another 3,600 cubic metres of ice from the glacier which would be airlifted from the site by helicopter.
Mr Olsen’s company, Svaice AS, has already removed a 50-tonne sample of ice from the glacier which is being kept in cold storage nearby in the village of Meloy, according to reports.
Mr Solhjell added: “This project shows a wilful lack of consideration for the current climate crisis. This is largely why we are seeing so much public outcry against the proposal.
“Industrial activity, including substantial helicopter traffic in a public landscape with wide acoustic valleys will have major negative consequences for wildlife and human enjoyment of the area’s natural environment.”
The local tourism board also fears the business would damage the reputation of the unspoilt region and deter potential tourists from visiting because of the noise from helicopters.
In a concession to the concerns, Svaice AS has agreed to postpone the removal of ice during the summer tourist season. The operation is now scheduled to start in September 2019 with production finished by April 2020.
Mr Olsen, who says he has already invested 12 million NOK (1 million GBP) in the venture, insists it will not damage the glacier which covers an area of 370 square kilometres.
The first test of the ice, conducted by Labora in April 2014, reportedly showed very high quality, without any pollution.
Glacial water and ice typically have a lower mineral content than spring water and so is seen to have a “smoother” taste.
The idea was first proposed in 2015 and the local authority of Meloy was positive about the project because it would bring job opportunities to the area.
But there was a change of heart last year when Tomas Norvoll, the County Governor of Nordland, and the Nordland County Council both revealed their opposition to Mr Olsen’s plans.
However, Mr Norvoll subsequently withdrew his objection in February this year.