The ionic and isotopic characteristics of bulk waters emanating from the cold-based Longyearbreen, central Svalbard, in 2004 are examined to determine lithological, hydrological and glaciological controls on water composition, solute provenance and chemical denudation. The geology consisted of reactive coal seams and associated sedimentary rocks. Acidity caused by microbial-mediated oxidation of sulfides and, to a lesser extent, nitrogen-bearing minerals was neutralized by congruent dissolution of dolomite and incongruent weathering of silicates in open-system subglacial drainage channels. The ablation season was divided into an early melt season, a peak-flow period and a late melt season. The runoff distribution during these periods was 1.7%, 89.7% and 8.6%, respectively, whereas the solute flux distribution was 1.9%, 82.1% and 16.0%, respectively. Comparisons between different annual solute flux estimation methods indicated that extrapolation of peak-flow period data significantly underestimated both the early- and late-melt-season solute fluxes. About 3.8% of the solutes derived from sea-salt spray, 0.7% from acid aerosol deposition and 95.5% from crustal/organic sources. The physical and chemical conditions resulted in diffusion of CO2 rather than atmospheric drawdown. The cation-equivalent weathering rate and the crustal solute yield were 322 ΣmEq+m−2 a−1 and 22 t km−2 a−1, respectively, which are within the regional range of Svalbard. However, the chemical weathering intensity was as high as 940 ΣmEq+ m−3 owing to the relatively low specific discharge of 0.34 m a−1.