Denmark to decide whether Greenland can start mining uranium

Denmark is set to vote on whether to allow uranium mining in Greenland, the Danish government’s spokesman for Greenland affairs told Metal Bulletin (subs. required) on Wednesday.

According to the article, a majority in the Danish parliament seems to be ready to allow the extraction and exports of the radioactive element from Greenland, which represents a historical shift in Danish foreign policy, after 30 years of opposition to nuclear power.

The government of Greenland has control over uranium mining rights in the country. However, since it is considered a security and defence issue, Greenland has to ask Denmark for permission before it can go ahead with its uranium mining plans.

“We have to approach this positively. We would be caught in a very weird Danish role if we block Greenland’s wish,” foreign policy spokesperson Rasmus Helveg Petersen from the Social Liberals, one of the parties constituting the Danish government, told the newspaper Politiken.

Kvanefjeld, the world’s fifth largest uranium deposit, is located south of Greenland and if the Danish self-ruled territory makes a formal request to exploit it, Denmark could become one of the biggest exporters of the radioactive metal, experts quoted by Politiken said.

A former Danish colony, Greenland was granted home rule in 1979 and, 30 years later, it assumed self-determination with responsibility for judicial affairs, police, and natural resources. However, the Danish government is still in charge of foreign affairs, financial policy and security.

In the spring, a report by the Greenlandic Directory for Raw Materials on uranium’s effect on the environment and public health will be published. If the report doesn’t point to major issues, there is likely to be a majority in Greenland's parliament for extracting uranium.

The Greenland Bureau of Mineral and Petroleum is set to deliver a report in the spring, outlining the potential public health and the environmental impacts of uranium mining. If the report appears positive, a majority in Greenland’s parliament appears ready to vote in favour of giving the island country the green light to mine uranium. 

Image: Old mining town of Ivittuut, Greenland by the European Environment Agency (EEA)

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