Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in Svalbard, is the Norwegian administrative centre. The other settlements are in Barentsburg, Ny-Ålesund, Hornsund, Hopen and Bjørnøya.
Longyearbyen is located at a latitude of 78°N. This is a modern community of families with schools, kindergartens, a university campus, local newspaper, shops, restaurants, hospital, church and cultural activity of various kinds. The settlement was founded by the American John Munroe Longyear in 1906 and is inhabited by some 2,100 people, most of them Norwegian, though more than 40 nationalities are represented. In the past, Longyearbyen was purely a mining community. Since the early nineties, though, it has gradually changed. Nowadays, tourism, research and education form part of its backbone together with the mining. Svalbard's airport has flights to the mainland all year round.
Longyearbyen Community Council (Longyearbyen lokalstyre) has the authority over the infrastructure, plans for land-use, schools, kindergartens and other things within Longyearbyen planning area. It is comparable to a municipality on the mainland.
The mining community Barentsburg, located about 40 km to the south-west from Longyearbyen, is the second largest settlement in Svalbard. The Russian state-owned mining company Trust Arktikugol owns and runs the mine and the community. There is a coal production of about 160.000 tons annually. Up to 1500 people lived here in the Soviet era, but the population has been declining since 1990 and is currently a little under 500. Most of the people are from Ukraine and Russia.
Barentsburg has its own coal-fired power station, a hospital, hotel, school, kindergarten and culture and sports centre. Moreover, Barentsburg houses the Russian consulate in Svalbard and a research centre run by the Russian Academy of Sciences. Trust Arktikugol initially purchased the mining facilities from the Dutch company Nederlandsche Spitzbergen Companie in 1932.
Pyramiden (shut down)
Pyramiden had 1000 inhabitants at its most, and was a mining town run by the Russian mining company Trust Arktikugol. There are large deposits of coal in the mountain, also called Pyramiden, but extraction was complicated by major fault segments in the mountain. Activity was discontinued in 1998. Today Pyramiden is a popular tourist attraction, inhabited by a few persons who take care of tourist guding and maintenance of the bulidings and infrastructure.
In Kongsfjord, on the north-western coast of Spitsbergen, Ny-Ålesund is the world's northernmost permanently inhabited settlement and the headquarters of Norwegian and foreign research activities in Svalbard. In addition to Norway, a number of research stations from different nations, among them Germany, the UK, Italy, Japan and China, are established. Researchers from other nations are also involved in various projects. The public corporation Kings Bay AS owns the land and facilities in Ny-Ålesund, and runs the infrastructure. About 25 people live in the settlement year round, but the population multiplies manifold during the summer.
In the southern part of Spitsbergen, a Polish research station is engaged in seismology, meteorology, biology and glaciology. The station is manned by a staff of 10-12 people.
Hopen and Bjørnøya
At Hopen and Bjørnøya, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute runs weather stations staffed by four people at Hopen and nine at Bjørnøya.
There are no roads between the settlements in Svalbard. Ny-Ålesund has an airport that handle flights to and from Longyearbyen several times a week. In Barentsburg, the Russian mining company has a helicopter pad on Heerodden. The settlements on Spitsbergen can be reached by boat during the summer, and by snow mobile in winter.