Greenland's parliament has voted to end a 25-year “zero tolerance” ban on uranium and rare earths mining, further opening up the Arctic nation of 56,000 to global investors; UK-based London Mining Plc is the biggest to date, having received approval for a $2.3 billion iron ore mine, which, employing up to 3,000, could be the single biggest business in Greenland’s history.
Elsewhere, the Kvanefjeld development, a rare earth and uranium deposit currently being explored by Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd. in Southern Greenland, could also be one of the largest outside China with “genuine global significance,” the Australian miner said in a statement.
Indeed, rare earth production could be a massive boon to Greenland’s economy, given the extreme demand for mineral coupled with global scarcity outside mainland China, home to more than 90% of the world’s total. With applications for alternative energy, hybrid vehicles and multiple consumer goods, moreover, China’s monopoly has proven a strategic challenge, with Beijing curbing its supply over geopolitical confrontations.
Greenland is home to other vast mineral deposits and ores; these include iron, aluminum, nickel, platinum, tungsten, titanium and copper. "We cannot live with unemployment and cost of living increases while our economy is at a standstill,” said Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond of the vote, according to Sermitsiaq, a local paper. “This is indeed a historic moment for Greenland,” added Industry and Minerals Minister Jens-Erik Kirkegaard.
Lonmin’s Isua project, a 30-year, 15-million-ton mine 90 miles north of Nuuk, the capital, can produce high-quality iron pellet feed concentrate shippable year-round from a dedicated deep water port. “We believe Isua's high-quality product segment will become increasingly important to steelmakers to balance the growth in lower quality iron ore supply and the increasing importance of pellets,” said Lonmin CEO Graeme Hossie.
Greenland is self governing, but is part of the Kingdom of Denmark and the uranium decision may need Danish parliamentary approval — something that could put the governments at loggerheads. Greenland's ban on mining radioactive materials was inherited from Denmark, but the island is keen on developing mining to subsidize welfare and jobs for its largely Inuit native population.