Greenland closer to building world’s fifth-largest uranium mine

Greenland is gaining attention as global superpowers including China, Russia and the US look toward the Arctic region for mineral resources and strategic waterways. (Image courtesy of Greenland Minerals and Energy)

Greenland may soon start building the world’s fifth-largest uranium mine and second-biggest rare earths operation, which could fuel independence dreams in the island, an “autonomous administrative division” within Denmark since 2009.

The proposed open pit mine in the southern town of Kvanefjeld is expected to process over 100 million tonnes of ore in the coming decades, helping Greenland to diversified its economy. According to Danish Radio, it would also alleviate the island’s dependence on a locked Danish subsidy of 3.2 billion DKK (about $500 million), which constitutes about half of its budget.

The proposed uranium-rare earths mine could alleviate the island’s dependence on a locked Danish subsidy of 3.2 billion DKK (about $500 million), which constitutes about half of its budget.

But Greenland Minerals and Energy’s (ASX:GGG) project, which would have an annual processing capacity of 3 million tonnes of ore a year and employ at least 325 locals, is facing opposition from those who don’t want to see major landscape and environmental changes.

For a start, the proposed operation would dispose of its mining waste, consisting of crushed ore, water and chemicals used for extraction, in a nearby lake. Since that lake is not big enough, the company plans to build two extra dams to help contain the waste. Based on the project’s description, nearly 21,000 tonnes of chemicals will be used each year to extract the sought-after resources.

Kvanefjeld’s shutdown period is considered by many as too long (it’s expected to take another six years) and, after the final closure, it will be filled with rainwater, CHP Post Online reports.

There is also the common argument raised against uranium mines, this project in particular, that radioactive dust could potentially fall on neighbouring settlements and farmland.

But the mine, with an expected lifespan of about 37 years and the potential to hire around 800 people, will also be a contributor to the new global green economy, the company says. This, as 80% of the commercial deposits in Kvanefjeld are rare earth minerals, commonly used in wind turbines, hybrid cars and lasers, while uranium accounts for only 10%.

Kvanefjeld is just one of several mining projects popping up in Greenland since 2013, when the parliament voted to remove the ban on uranium mining, opening the door to that project and many others. In fact, based on official data, there are currently 56 active licences to explore for gold, rubies, diamonds, nickel, copper and other minerals in the island.

Just in January, Australian Ironbark Zinc Limited (ASX:IBG) was given the green light to begin construction of a zinc and lead mine on the northern coast.