2006, on June 19, the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland's laid "the first stone" to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. About 1,300 km (810 mi) from the North Pole. The seed vault is an attempt to insure against the loss of seeds in other gene-banks during large-scale regional or global crises.The seed vault is managed under terms spelled out in a tripartite agreement between the Norwegian government, the Crop Trust and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center.
The Norwegian government entirely funded the vault's US$9 million construction. Storing seeds in the vault is free to end users, with Norway and the Crop Trust paying for operational costs. Primary funding for the Trust comes from various governments worldwide and organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The seedbank is 120 m (390 ft.) inside a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island. It is outfitted with robust security systems. Seeds are packaged in special three-ply foil packets and heat sealed to exclude moisture. The facility is managed by the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, though there is no permanent staff on-site.
Spitsbergen is considered ideal because it lacks tectonic activity and has permafrost, which aids preservation. Being 130 m (430 ft.) above sea level will keep the site dry. Even if the ice caps melt. Locally mined coal provides power for the refrigeration units which further cool the seeds to the internationally recommended standard of -18 °C (-0.4 °F). If the equipment fails, several weeks will elapse before the facility rises to the surrounding sandstone bedrock's temperature of -3 °C (27 °F).
A feasibility study prior to construction determined that the vault could preserve most major food crops' seeds for hundreds of years. Some could survive far longer, possibly thousands of years. Among those are important grains.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault officially opened on February 26, 2008. Approximately 1.5 million distinct seed of agricultural crops are thought to exist. The variety and the volume of seeds stored will depend on the number of countries participating in this project. The facility has a capacity to conserve 4.5 million seeds.
The adjacent Arctic World Archive provides a similar service for data. They are etched as code into reels of film. The films, when properly preserved, should last for 1,000 years.