An image of the Svartisen glacier taken from Svaice's website. Photo: Svaice
Imagine you’re lounging in a Dubai sky bar and you get served a vodka martini filtered through thousand-year-old ice mined from a glacier in the far north of Norway. This is the idea behind Norwegian start-up Svaice.
"Our product is 100 per cent natural, more than a thousand years old, and very luxurious," the company boasts on its website. "We guarantee goosebumps and a memorable moment for those who can find it."
Svaice this week announced that it had won a 250,000 kroner grant from Nordland county council and a state forestry company to set up a pilot excavation operation on the Svartisen glacier.
Geir L. Olsen, the company’s founder, has already travelled to Dubai to market the idea and claims to have received a positive response.
“Ice from the glacier is compact and thaws slowly,” Olsen told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. “Meanwhile, it’s very clean and has a good taste. This means that you do not noticeably dilute the drink.”
Per Swensen, mayor of the nearby Meløy municipality, is a keen supporter, hoping that the project will bring much-needed jobs.
“Imagine being able to drop a more than 1000-year-old ice cube into your glass. It undoubtedly sounds quite exclusive,” he told NRK.
Svartisen is mainland Norway’s second largest glacier, spanning some 369 square kilometres. But its thickness has halved in many places since the millennium.
Nina Jensen, Secretary General of WWF in Norway said she could not understand why such a project was getting public support.
“It seems very strange that the government should provide support to mine Svartisen when we know that it is shrinking because of ,” she said. “I do not think it is right to create short-term jobs by eating up the last parts of a glacier which is about to disappear.”
Svaice claims that it will only mine ice at a part of the glacier where it is soon to become melt water anyway, meaning will not be accelerating the glacier's disappearance. Even at full production of 3,600 cubic metres a year, it claims, the amount of ice mined would, if melted, only provide 54 seconds of power at the hydroelectric plant fed by the glacier.
"The amount of ice that we are going to take out is literally just a cup of water in the ocean," claims the .
Nordland County’s press release said Svaice envisaged marketing the ice to high-end bars and restaurants worldwide, as well as to the cruise industry.
The company has already bought a set of buildings from a bankrupt Norwegian solar power company, which it aims to turn into a factory.