Norwegian banks in icy NFT Piql over Svalbard money

The Piql-based digital storage vault in Svalbard is storing NFTs of money created for use on the remote Arctic island.

We’re told that, throughout much of the 20th century, American, British, Norwegian, Soviet and Swedish coal mining companies created their own banknotes. The Soviets also created coins. The miners received their salary in local currency, and used it for purchasing goods – exclusively on Svalbard. 

Last year Sparebank 1, a Norwegian alliance of savings banks, launched digital Svalbard banknotes and coins that could be bought and sold via a Svalbard money website. The coins and notes were/are so-called NFTs (“non-fungible tokens”) based on the Ethereum blockchain. But this operation closed down on 7 February with the NFTs tradeable on an OpenSea secondary market site.

Svalbard money website

NFTs are unique digital units or tokens that can be bought and sold and are stored on an immutable blockchain ledger. The NFT ledgers are said to provide a public certificate of authenticity or proof of ownership but they don’t prevent the sharing or copying of the underlying digital files or, apparently, prevent other NFTs being created based on the same digital files.

Here’s where we go quietly nuts. From 14 February, the digital Svalbard money will be stored for eternity in the Arctic World Archive located inside an old Svalbard coalmine. The actual data from the notes and coins, as well as historically collected material, will be stored on PiqlFilm – reels of 35mm film stock said to be immutable and good for a 1,000-year-plus lifetime. I mean, really, who cares that a bank virtually no one has heard of is storing money NFTs, which are of dubious and erratic value, inside shipping containers in an island coalmine off Norway and beyond the Arctic Circle?

The ingenious Morten Søberg, responsible for public relations at Sparebank1 and the initiator of the Svalbard money project, said “With the help of Piql’s technology, this unique part of financial history will be stored safely for eternity in the Arctic World Archive. In one way, the Svalbard money will be everlasting. It is a beautiful idea.”

In your dreams, Morten.

Rune Bjerkestrand, managing director of Piql, bigged up the idea as well. “The Svalbard money has come full circle. They have been returned to where it all began more than 100 years ago, deep in one of the Arctic coalmines. The dry, cool permafrost will help preserve this fascinating piece of Svalbard memory for future generations.”