Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Social Sciences


Patrick E Martin


In 1906, two American industrialists, John Munroe Longyear and Frederick Ayer, formed the Arctic Coal Company to make the first large scale attempt at mining in the high-Arctic location of Spitsbergen, north of the Norwegian mainland. In doing so, they encountered numerous obstacles and built an organization that attempted to overcome them. The Americans sold out in 1916 but others followed, eventually culminating in the transformation of a largely underdeveloped landscape into a mining region.

This work uses John Law’s network approach of the Actor Network Theory (ANT) framework to explain how the Arctic Coal Company built a mining network in this environmentally difficult region and why they made the choices they did. It does so by identifying and analyzing the problems the company encountered and the strategies they used to overcome them by focusing on three major components of the operations; the company’s four land claims, its technical system and its main settlement, Longyear City. Extensive comparison between aspects of Longyear City and the company’s choices of technology with other American examples place analysis of the company in a wider context and helps isolate unique aspects of mining in the high-Arctic. American examples dominate comparative sections because Americans dominated the ownership and upper management of the company.