Eclipse Metals has applied to Greenland’s Mineral Resources Authority
Eclipse Metals has applied to Greenland’s Mineral Resources Authority to proceed with drilling at the Grønnedal-Ika carbonatite rare earth elements (REE) prospect during this year’s field season.
The company has engaged a local contractor to carry out the proposed campaign and executive chairman Carl Popal has visited the site to assess ground conditions and facilitate the planning of access and drill hole locations.
“We took the contractors onsite and discussed the mobilisation of appropriate equipment, with the team potentially able to mobilise in July,” he said.
“We were able to locate several historic drill collars which will assist in planning the program.”
Ivittuut mining licence
Mr Popal also met with Greenland’s Environmental Agency for Mineral Resource Activities to discuss the requirements for a mining licence application for the Ivittuut historic cryolite mine.
Eclipse is actively exploring Ivittuut and Grønnedal-Ika for lithium, base and precious metals and industrial minerals.
The meetings will help it work more closely with government departments to move forward at Ivittuut, where pit dewatering remains a significant licencing issue.
Mr Popal said the company would provide the government with information for its planned dewatering procedures.
“The meeting regarding environmental requirements related to the mining licence and drainage of the pit in the licence area was productive [and] we are encouraged to work with environmental officers to develop the requirements to empty the pit,” Mr Popal said.
“We plan to engage a specialist to assist with addressing these requirements to ensure dewatering is in line with best practice.”
Eclipse has also entered into talks with the municipality of Sermersooq to establish ways in which it can assist the restoration of the local Ivittuut mine museum.
Last month, Eclipse revealed that 3D modelling of airborne magnetic data over Grønnedal-Ika had identified several high amplitude and vertically-extensive magnetic bodies indicative of REE mineralisation.
They are believed to be spatially coincident with a cluster of electromagnetic bedrock conductors identified by a previous explorer.
Eclipse said the bodies suggest the potential for a larger extent of magnetite-bearing carbonatite and carbonatite breccia in the subsurface than indicated by earlier mapping, Small Caps writes.
Greenland Minerals is beginning arbitration proceedings against the governments of Greenland and Denmark
Greenland Minerals is beginning arbitration proceedings against the governments of Greenland and Denmark over its stalled Kvanefjeld rare earth-uranium project, Kallanish reports.
Arbitration has been officially requested by subsidiary Greenland Minerals A/S, after discussions with the Greenland government failed to provide a remedy, the Australia-based company says. Last month, the government rejected the company’s exploitation license. The company is seeking a hearing before three arbitrators in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“We tried to find a constructive solution through dialogue with the government of Greenland but they made it clear that they would not move from their position that Act No. 20 applies to us and our exploitation license will not be granted,” says managing director Daniel Mamadou.
The company took the step in order to protect its investment in the project and to obtain the exploitation license that is needed to proceed. The company was earlier issued an exploration license and that should entitle it to an exploitation license, the company says. It is maintaining its application for an exploitation license and is seeking an independent legal opinion as to whether the 2021 uranium mining ban applies to its project.
If the law does apply to the project, the company will seek compensation for expropriation from the Greenland government, the company says. It says it has invested AUD 130 million ($97.14m) in the project in 10 years.
The government of Greenland has banned the mining of uranium which it defines as uranium content of 100 parts per million or greater in the total resource. That rule went into effect 2 December, 2021.
The Kvanefjeld project in southwest Greenland features ore reserve that contain 108m tonnes of 1.43% rare earth oxide, 0.26% zinc and 0.036% uranium oxide. The uranium oxide content is 266 ppm and would produce about 5% of project revenues, Kallanish reports.
Greenland Strips Chinese Mining Firm of License for Iron Ore Deposit
The license was withdrawn because of inactivity at the site and a failure to make the agreed guarantee payments, the government said.
According to Reuters, Greenland has stripped a Chinese mining company of its license to an iron ore deposit near the capital Nuuk. General Nice, a Chinese coal and iron ore importer, took control of the Isua mine project in 2015, replacing previous owner London Mining, which went bankrupt. It was the first Chinese firm to have the right to exploit minerals in Greenland.
The license was withdrawn because of inactivity at the site, the government said in a statement. The license be offered to new interested companies once it has formally been handed back. The company also failed to make the agreed guarantee payments, the statement said.
The government requested that all geological data is returned, remaining payments of 1.5 million Danish crowns are deposited, and the mining area is cleaned up. London Mining, which obtained the exploitation license in 2013, had initially planned to hire some 2,000 Chinese workers to construct the project and aimed to supply China with around 15 million metric tonnes of iron ore a year. However, it failed to secure sufficient financing.
Greenland’s government has said it supports environmentally responsible mining. This year it banned uranium mining, effectively halting development of the Kuannersuit mine, one of the world’s biggest rare earth deposits, which is partly-owned by a Chinese company.
General Nice also attempted in 2016 to buy an abandoned naval station in Greenland from Denmark, but Copenhagen vetoed the offer because of security concerns, sources told Reuters at the time. In 2018, Greenland rejected an offer from a Chinese state bank and a state-owned construction company to finance and build two airports in Greenland.
Mining of deposits with a uranium concentration over 100 parts per million (ppm) is illegal
Mining at Greenland Minerals’ Kuannersuit has been halted by Greenland legislation banning the mining of uranium, Reuters reported.
Kuannersuit is also known as Kvanefjeld.
Australian-based Greenland Minerals had been developing the rare earths mine, located near the town of Narsaq. The mine also contains radioactive uranium.
According to the new law, mining of deposits with a uranium concentration over 100 parts per million (ppm) is illegal.
Greenland Minerals had not yet received final approval of the mine.
The Kvanefjeld project holds over a billion tonnes of mineral resources, with 11.1 million tonnes of rare earth oxide, and 593 million pounds of U3O8.
Greenland Minerals had been finalising its Environmental Impact Assessment for the mine.
Rare earths expected to be produced at the mine include praseodymium, neodymium, terbium, and dysprosium.
Greenland’s new governing party Inuit Ataqatigiit, elected in April, focused their campaign on developing Kvanefjeld.
Greenland has stripped a Chinese mining company of its licence to an iron ore deposit
Greenland said on Monday it has stripped a Chinese mining company of its licence to an iron ore deposit near the capital Nuuk, dealing a blow to attempts by Chinese companies to gain a foothold on the resource-rich Arctic island.
General Nice, a Chinese coal and iron ore importer, took control of the Isua mine project in 2015, replacing previous owner London Mining, which went bankrupt.
It was the first Chinese firm to have the right to exploit minerals in Greenland, which has attracted international interest as climate change has opened up waterways and access to the vast Arctic island’s mineral resources.
The licence was withdrawn because of inactivity at the site, the government said in a statement, adding it will be offered to new interested companies once it has formally been handed back.
The company also failed to make the agreed guarantee payments, it said.
“We cannot accept that a licence-holder repeatedly fails to meet agreed deadlines,” Greenland’s Resources Minister Naaja Nathanielsen said.
The government requested that all geological data is returned, remaining payments of 1.5 million Danish crowns are deposited, and the mining area is cleaned up.
London Mining, which obtained the exploitation licence in 2013, had initially planned to hire some 2,000 Chinese workers to construct the project and aimed to supply China with around 15 million metric tonnes of iron ore a year.
However, it failed to secure sufficient financing.
Greenland’s government, elected in April, has said it supports environmentally responsible mining.
This year it banned uranium mining, effectively halting development of the Kuannersuit mine, one of the world’s biggest rare earth deposits, which is partly-owned by a Chinese company.
General Nice also attempted in 2016 to buy an abandoned naval station in Greenland from Denmark, but Copenhagen vetoed the offer because of security concerns, sources told Reuters at the time.
General Nice could not be reached for comment.
In 2018, Greenland rejected an offer from a Chinese state bank and a state-owned construction company to finance and build two airports in Greenland.
Greenland’s parliament is expected to pass a bill reinstating a ban on uranium mining
Within weeks, Greenland’s parliament, the Inatsisartut, is expected to pass a bill reinstating a ban on uranium mining that was lifted in 2013 following pressure from mining companies.
“The Greenlandic minister with responsibility for minerals has publicly stated that a ban on uranium mining will put an end to all future uranium mining, full stop,” Mariane Paviasen, a Greenland MP and leading activist in the anti-uranium mining movement, Urani? Naamik (Uranium? No), told Green Left.
Paviasen was elected to the Inatsisartut in a snap election in April, as a candidate of the Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community for the People) party (IA). IA explicitly campaigned on a platform opposing a giant open-cut mine proposed for Kvanefjeld (Kuannersuit in Greenlandic) by controversial Australian company Greenland Minerals Ltd (GML).
According to Danish environmentalists, GML was instrumental in overturning Greenland’s uranium mining ban. It promoted the uranium mine as one of the biggest in the world, back in 2007, but now promotes Kvanefjeld as a Rare Earths mine, which will produce uranium as a by-product. It plans to dump uranium-rich mine waste in Lake Taseq, above the small township of Narsaq, where Paviasen lives.
According to NOAH (Danish Friends of the Earth) campaigner Niels Henrik Hooge, this has been GML´s strategy for almost a decade and that of Greenland´s former government.
“It has no credibility with the public, considering that the recent general elections more or less were a referendum on Kvanefjeld and perceived as a ‘uranium election’,” Hooge told GL.
The uranium deposit in Kvanefjeld is considered by GML to be the second largest in the world, surpassed only by Australia’s Olympic Dam uranium mine. While uranium prices have fallen dramatically since the Fukushima reactor disaster, moves to push nuclear energy as a “solution” to global warming may be already pushing the price up.
Furthermore, if GML imagines that presenting its Rare Earths mining project somehow makes it more “green”, this is false. According to GML’s own estimates, the mine would raise Greenland’s carbon dioxide emissions by 45%.
NOAH and Renewable Energy, another Danish NGO, list many serious environmental costs if the Kvanefjeld mine is allowed to proceed. There are huge risks from air pollution during open-cut mining, and even greater risks associated with dumping radioactive waste in Lake Taseq.
In addition to uranium, the radioactive waste would include thorium. Thorium tailings are 3‒10 times more radiaoctive than uranium, the two NGOs pointed out in their September 12 submission, responding to the mine’s latest Environmental Impact Statement.
The tailings will cause health problems, even if the built-in dams behave as planned. The risk increases over time, primarily after the mine has been shut down and when monitoring and maintenance have been completed.
In addition to the planned discharges, there will be unintentional spills via leaks and accidents. In the long run, large areas around the mine will be contaminated with radioactive elements and non-radioactive substances, many of which are highly toxic.
“The people living in the polluted areas will be permanently exposed to radioactive and other toxic substances via drinking water, food and air. Seafood is also becoming polluted due to the massive discharges of waste, including wastewater, along the coast. Bioaccumulation of radionuclides and non-radioactive chemicals can become a serious problem.
“All this means that uranium mining in Kuannersuit in addition to significant chemical pollution will leave millions of tons of tailings containing some of the most toxic known radioactive substances, such as radium, thorium, radon and polonium, and this waste remains radioactive at a dangerous level for hundreds of thousands of years.
“In addition, the Arctic environment is particularly vulnerable to pollution because it is rebuilding very slowly, and the long-term consequences of uranium mining could be extensive radioactive pollution, which, due to the health hazard, may make it necessary to ban agriculture, fishing, trapping and livestock farming.”
GML argued vigorously for the uranium mine in the lead up to the April elections. The company ran daily advertisements claiming that the mine would generate US$245 million in taxes and royalties for the country’s economy each year and create 330 local jobs.
After the election, GML chairperson Anthony Ho suggested to shareholders at the company’s May 26 Annual General Meeting in Perth that the company would be able to weaken the opposition to the Kvanefjeld mine among the new generation of MPs who were elected:
“Now that they are in power they now have to deal with governing a country rather than rah, rah, rah campaigning — ‘Vote for me, I’m going to make you all millionaires and you’re all going to have beautiful sunshine and fresh air’,” Ho said, according to a transcript published by environmental NGOs.
Ho said GML could “help them to evolve their policies”.
“How are we going to assist them to achieve their aspirations of no uranium mining in Greenland without damaging [our] shareholders’ interests and shareholders’ value in the company and our project?”
The answer, Ho suggested, was to treat the Kvanefjeld mine as an exception, even if the uranium ban passed.
“If you look at the situation in Australia, when Bob Hawke was elected Prime Minister, he said no uranium mining. But then the mines department said to him, ‘You can’t stop Jabiluka because it is already going on’. So ‘alright’, he said, ‘Yep, no uranium mining from now on, and Jabiluka can carry on’. So there’s a lot of things that you need to work with government and help them achieve their goals and what they say during the election, without damaging the country or damaging the shareholders interests.”
GML managing director John Mair noted cockily at the AGM that, as the new IA-led government was a coalition, things could “change in a heartbeat”. He also joked about how many Greenlanders welcome global warming and that if the country did not warm enough, then “when the mine does get going and they’re earning good wages, they can pop down to Spain and get thawed out and come back for another fortnight.”
GML shareholders laughed at this.
The political aggressiveness of GML may have something to do with its roots.
Sydney- based independent journalist, author and filmmaker Antony Loewenstein has been following this case since 2014. At the time, he wrote an article for the Guardian outlining the political record of GML, then called Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd (GMEL), and its alleged control by a mysterious businessman, Mihran Shemesian, also known as “Mick Many Names”.
“In 2009, Fairfax media claimed that Shemesian controlled more than 20% of GMEL stock. Range Resources, another company tied to Shemesian, had earlier been accused of paying the disputed government of the Puntland State of Somalia, linked to Somali rebels, more than US$6m (A$9.3m) for resource rights to the region,” Loewenstein wrote.
When Loewenstein asked Mair about Shemesian, he was told he isn’t “registered as a shareholder”. However, Mair would not guarantee that Shemesian has no involvement with GMEL.
“Years ago I found troubling transparency questions around the Australian firm GMEL [now GML] and it should be treated with caution,” Loewenstein told GL.
“This issue has received barely any coverage in Australia and it begs the question; what’s a relatively unknown Western Australian company trying to do in Greenland and what are its real motives? Uranium mining in pristine territory should be rejected outright.”
GML should stop pushing a mining project that clearly doesn’t have a social license to operate, he added.
Dr Lian Sinclair, who observed GML’s last AGM on behalf of mining monitoring group, the Minerals Policy Institute, told GL: “GML refused to rule out litigation over any potential ban on uranium and said they are committed to ‘quiet-diplomacy’. It is most concerning … that an Australian company would potentially engage in litigation or back-room deals away from public scrutiny to overturn the democratic mandate of a small country.”
GML may have seriously politically over-reached this time.
Greg Barnes, a Perth-based geologist who owns another mining company operating near Kvanesfjeld — and who supposedly inspired former United States president Donald Trump’s announcement two year ago that he might “buy Greenland” — interrupted Mair at GML’s AGM:
“Mate, you stink in Greenland. Your advertising campaign in the election probably did more to get IA elected than anybody else.”
He added that the company’s political intervention had “killed the project”.
It seems that Barnes could be right.
Paviasen, who chairs the Inatsisartut’s Committee for Trade, Commerce, Mineral and Oil Resources, was adamant that the IA-led government and the Greenland parliament would hold firm on the uranium mining ban and on the Kvanefjeld mine.
“There will be no exceptions made,” she told GL.
“Currently GML holds an exploration license, but a ban will make it impossible to obtain an exploitation license containing uranium mining, unless the resource is below the threshold of 100 parts per million, which is unlikely.
“Also, keep in mind that GML already has a special term in their exploration license stating that the Greenlandic government can reject an application for uranium mining due to political reasons. This has been in effect since 2011 and stayed on through several coalition governments of different politics.”
Kvanefjeld was granted preliminary approval last year
Greenland’s new government is preparing legislation that will ban uranium mining and cease development of the Kvanefjeld mine, one of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, the country’s mineral resources minister says.
Kvanefjeld, owned by Australian mining firm Greenland Minerals and located near the southern town of Narsaq, contains a large deposit of rare earth metals but also radioactive uranium which locals fear could harm the island’s fragile environment if extracted.
“What we know is that the background radiation in and around Narsaq is quite high, which means that the project will collide with the upcoming zero tolerance policy on uranium mining,” minister for mineral resources Naaja Nathanielsen told Reuters in an interview in the capital Nuuk.
Mining companies have been pushing for rights to exploit rare earth deposits in Greenland, which the US Geological Survey says has the world’s biggest undeveloped deposits of the metals used in everything from electric vehicle batteries to missiles.
A public hearing on the project ended this week.
Greenland Minerals, in which Chinese partner Shenghe Resources has about a 10 per cent stake, participated in community meetings in February, but did not attend meetings in August and September citing the political nature of the meetings.
Chief executive John Mair, whose company has spent more than $US100 million ($A137 million) preparing the project, told Reuters on Friday he believes his company still holds the “valid right to pursue an exploitation licence for the project in compliance with Greenland laws”.
Locals worry that a potential lawsuit against Greenland will hurt its ability to attract investments in a nascent mining sector which they think is key to growing their economy.
Mair said it was too early to look at legal action “but as a public company, we must protect shareholder interests in the event a practical solution is not found”.
Nathanielsen said the government in 2013 put a clause in its contract with the company that states it “has no claim to an exploration licence and that a refusal can be given for political reasons”.
“We cannot issue guarantees against a lawsuit but we believe that we stand quite well in a potential court case”, she said.
The new bill, which will also include the option of banning the exploration of other radioactive minerals such as thorium, will be passed in the northern hemisphere autumn with backing of the Naleraq party, a coalition partner, Nathanielsen said.
Greenland Minerals continues consultation process for flagship Kvanefjeld Rare Earth Project
The company has been operating in Greenland, with a focus on the Kvanefjeld Rare Earth Project, since 2007.
Greenland Minerals Ltd (ASX:GGG, OTC:GDLNF) is continuing the permitting process for its flagship Kvanefjeld Project in Greenland and is now awaiting the second consultation phase, which has been extended to September 13.
Public meetings have been earmarked for late August and will be attended by Ministers in Igaliku, Nanortalik, Narsaq, Narsarsuaq, Qaqortoq and Qassiarsuk in southern Greenland, followed by subsequent casework.
This comes after a new Coalition Government formed in Greenland with the Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) and Naleraq parties in February 2021.
Although the new Government’s leadership has stated an intention to oppose the development of Kvanefjeld, the government has agreed to a second round of public meetings during August.
Public consultation status
On December 17, 2020, the Greenland Government approved the commencement of the statutory public consultation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for the Kvanefjeld Project, and immediately initiated the consultation period.
This kicked off on December 18, 2020, for initially 12 weeks with Greenlandic, Danish and English versions of the EIA and the SIA made available on the Greenland Government’s public hearing portal.
It was then extended to June 1, following the election, and then further extended to September 13 to accommodate another round of public meetings.
Public consultation White Paper
After the consultation period has been completed, the next step is to respond to issues raised during the process.
These responses are then collated in a document referred to as the White Paper.
So far, issues raised in the public meetings during February 2021 have been lodged via the Government’s online portal, however, additional questions are expected during the next round of meetings in August.
To ensure that the process proceeds as efficiently as possible, Greenland Minerals has started preparing detailed responses to each of these issues for the White Paper with support from key consultants.
Responses are being prepared by reference to material already contained in the impact assessments themselves or in the consultant’s reports prepared to support the assessments.
Environmental baseline studies
Through the Greenland summer, GGG has completed additional environmental baseline studies in the broader project area to further increase its understanding of chemical dispersion by natural processes.
The company had intended to conduct an extensive field program this year, which was carefully planned with input from Greenland’s independent scientific advisors with approvals in place for the planned drilling and engineering studies from Greenland’s Mining Licence and Safety Authority.
Drilling was also planned to generate data for the next steps in permitting beyond an exploitation licence (operations and closure approvals), as well as geotechnical data for engineering studies.
With the change in political sentiment and resulting uncertainty, GGG has postponed the drilling program.
Draft legislation concerning uranium
The Greenland Government has put forward draft legislation for consultation to ban the exploration and exploitation of uranium, which would reverse some of the steps implemented by previous governments that aimed to establish a critical minerals industry in Greenland.
Critical minerals are those classed as being important to future technologies and in particular ‘green industries’ (renewable energy, electric vehicles) with projected future supply shortfalls.
As the proposed Act is in draft form and in consultation, Greenland Minerals is not able to advise how such legislation could potentially affect the Kvanefjeld development proposal, nor how it would impact other mining projects in Greenland as well as the exploration for a variety of mineral deposit types.
Source: Pro Active Investors
Greenland’s uranium mining issue
Only July 2, the elected government began a month-long public consultation period for a proposed bill that, in addition to mining uranium, would prohibit the feasibility studies and exploration activities that must be completed before a mining project can be considered for a license to begin operation. Greenland has taken the first step towards outlawing uranium mining after lawmakers there proposed a stricter version of a ban that the country’s national assembly overturned in 2013.
According to proposal, Naalakkersuisut, the elected government, is hoping that a reinstatement of what was known as the zero-tolerance policy, to achieve its goal of ensuring that “Greenland neither produces nor exports uranium.” Overturning the original ban allowed Greenland Minerals, an Australian firm, to proceed with its efforts to establish a rare-earths mine at Kuannersuit (also known as Kvanefjeld), in southern Greenland. But that mine, which is currently in the final stage of the approval process, would be located in an area that is high in uranium, and residents of nearby Narsaq fear that activity there would kick up radioactive dust that would settle on the town.
Reimposing the ban would help the government achieve one of its election pledges: preventing Kuannersuit from becoming a reality.
“There is widespread popular resistance to mining projects involving uranium,” the government in the proposal. “The people of Greenland have also expressed their support for mining — as long as it doesn’t involve uranium and the associated risks.”
Similar statements made by the government shortly after coming to power in April led Orano, a French firm specialising in uranium mining, to announce it would halt its Greenlandic exploration program.
Greenland Minerals has said it expects mining authorities to respect the current approval process.
In May, shortly after taking office, Naaja Nathanielsen, the mining minister, sought to allay concerns that the government’s opposition to uranium mining would be interpreted by the industry as scepticism towards the entire industry by pledging that it would abide by the mining strategy adopted by its predecessor, and that, when it came to the Kuannersuit approval process, it would ensure that Greenland Minerals got a fair review.
Nevertheless, she made it clear that Naalakkersuisut would be working to find legal ways to ensure that uranium mining never takes place.
“We welcome the many promising projects throughout the country that do not involve radioactive elements.”
Uranium is singled out by the bill, but it also leaves open the possibility of prohibiting “other radioactive substances.” One of these, thorium, is a source of worry for opponents of the Kuannersuit mine, which calls for large quantities of it be disposed of in artificial lakes on the site.
Greenland’s rare earths and EU’s exploitation plan
A new two-party coalition government on the autonomous Danish territory is planning to stop one of the world’s biggest rare earth mining projects over fears that radioactive uranium, which is also present in the deposit, could damage the local environment. The prospect that the mine, known as Kuannersuit, could be shut down is a heavy blow to the EU’s long-term plan to source more rare earth metals — which are key to the production of a range of green technology from electric cars to wind turbines — from politically stable Western-aligned countries. The EU is increasingly concerned that relying on China, which sources the bulk of “critical” raw materials — those defined as economically important and with high supply risk — is unwise among ongoing diplomatic tensions between Brussels and Beijing.
“The new coalition does not support uranium mining,” Naaja Hjelholt Nathanielsen, Greenland’s new minister of mining, told Politico.
Her party, Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA), made scrapping the rare earth mine and uranium central to its campaign ahead of last month’s election. And following its win at the ballot box, it is widely expected to make good on that promise.
Nathanielsen said she has yet to meet with Greenland Minerals, the Australia-based company developing the mine, but she expects the government will make an announcement about the project “before summer.” The proposal is currently subject to a public hearing that is scheduled to end June 1.
“I suppose they will stop the project,” said Erik Jensen, the leader of the Siumut party, which came second and lost power in the April election. His party has long backed the mine, but it too has cooled on the project in recent months.
“We are neutral in the issue right now because we would like to first see the hearing process and what the geologists have said about the project,” Jensen said.
A long time coming
The deposit at Kuannnersuit, which is in Greenland’s more hospitable southwest, was discovered by Danish geologists in the mid-1950s and received a big publicity boost in 1957 when the Danish Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr visited the site and expressed optimism about mining there. After decades of prospecting for uranium for eventual nuclear power plants in Denmark, Copenhagen suspended the mining program amid growing popular resistance to nuclear energy.
In 2013, the Greenlandic government shifted course again, and after a vote said uranium mining could restart, a move that re-energized the Kuannersuit project with its mix of uranium and rare earth metals.
Greenland Minerals argues the scheme would provide hundreds of well-paid jobs and vital state income. Greenland’s economy currently runs in large part on a subsidy from the Danish state, something parties advocating Greenlandic independence, including IA and Siumut, hope to change by developing a number of key industries, especially mining, fishing and tourism.
But in the town of Narsaq, close to the Kuannersuit mine site, opponents of the project say they fear radioactive dust from the pit will damage people’s health, pollute local farmland and scare away tourists.
Narsaq local Mariane Paviasen, an MP with IA who has campaigned against the mine, was recently appointed head of the parliament’s committee on trade and raw materials.
“I want to do what I promised and stop the mining of uranium on Greenland,” she told local media.
Undermining the EU’s plans
China currently accounts for around 70 percent of rare earth mining globally and between 85 percent and 90 percent of rare earth processing, according to a report by the consultancy Adamas. That’s not ideal for the EU, which is wary of relying too heavily on one country for the supplies of materials like neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium it needs to make its green ambitions a reality.
“By diversifying the supply from third countries and developing the EU’s own capacity for extraction, processing, recycling, refining and separation of rare earths, we can become more resilient and sustainable,” Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said in September, at the launch of the EU executive’s Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials.
The EU’s biggest known deposit of rare earths lies close to Sweden’s second-largest lake in a hamlet called Norra Kärr. But local concerns about the environmental impact of mineral extraction on local water supplies mean production, if it ever happens, is still years away. The Kuannersuit deposit is believed to be even larger, and while Greenland lies outside the EU, bloc-member Denmark retains control over foreign, defense and security policy. That means Copenhagen would be expected to have a say over where Greenland sells uranium and rare earths because of their strategic nature, experts say, making Greenland a more stable trading partner than China.
The EU is not the only one interested. Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s famous offer to buy Greenland in 2019 was in part motivated by a desire to control the island’s mineral reserves. The U.S. has since opened a consulate general in the Greenlandic capital Nuuk and Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the island last week.
Despite the bleak outlook, Greenland Minerals is not giving up, and chief executive John Mair said the company would continue to make its case for Kuannersuit at the upcoming public hearing.
“If it stalls due to unforeseen political reasons, it will not be seen as a positive step in the eyes of the international investment community,” Mair told the Australian business paper the Market Herald.
Mining Minister Nathanielsen acknowledged communication from the Greenlandic government over the years regarding uranium mining had “been back and forth with changing viewpoints.”
But she added that, beyond uranium, the new government is strongly in favor of the further development of Greenland’s mining industry at sites where uranium is not present. “The legislative framework is in general robust and investors and projects more than welcome,” she said.