Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 05, 2012 - 1:00 pm

ICC plans assessment of giant iron mine project in Greenland

“The inspiration is the Canadian model"

This map shows the location of the proposed Isua iron mine on Greenland's western coast. (FILE IMAGE)
This map shows the location of the proposed Isua iron mine on Greenland's western coast. (FILE IMAGE)

Greenland’s Bureau of Mining and Petroleum is skating on thin ice in its eagerness to attract investors to the mining industry, warns Aqqaluk Lynge, the president of Greenland’s Inuit Circumpolar Council and its international chairman.

The process has gone into overdrive and may turn out to “a bomb under the young self-governing Greenland,” Lynge told Greenland’s Sermitsiaq AG this week.

Lynge said he wants to see more informed input in the debate over mining development as well as more consultation on the various large-scale projects in the mining sector in Greenland.

“The inspiration is the Canadian model,” Lynge told Nunatsiaq News about his call for more rigorous environmental reviews. “Independent environmental impact assessments and studies of the socio-economic aspects are very important. As we see it here, we are not even considered rights-holders, but merely as stakeholders. This is, of course, not acceptable.”

So ICC-Greenland has hired two biologists and a socio-economic expert to provide independent impact assessments on the large Isua iron mine project, with backing form the World Wildlife Fund and a human rights foundation, the Oak Foundation.

By 2015, the U.K.-based London Mining Inc. wants to see the Isua mine, which hugs Greenland’s ice sheet about 150 kilometres northeast of Nuuk, in operation.

With at least a half a billion tonnes of high-grade, 70-per-cent iron ore — and possibly much more in the vicinity, Isua’s large-scale open pit operation will produce premium feed for the steel industry’s blast furnaces in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Plans call for the Isua mine to ship out 15 million tonnes of iron concentrate a year over 15 years — three million tonnes less than the 18 million tonnes a year of iron that the Mary River iron mine project would initially ship out over its 21-year lifespan.

Other infrastructure at Isua — which is expected to cost about $2 billion — includes a year-round port with a main floating dock and secondary dock for tugs in Taseraarssuk Bay, an airstrip, a 105-km road from the mine site to the port along with pipelines to carry slurry and fuel, a primary crusher plant at the mine with a three-km conveyor and a stockpile concentrate de-watering plant, a ship loading system, diesel power plant, fuel storage, offices, and residences for the mine’s 570 workers.

Throughout the year, giant 250,000-tonne tankers would bring the mine’s iron pellets to its buyers around the world.

But Lynge says Greenland needs more time before a project like this moves ahead.

“We need more time. Some of the projects must be suspended and others to conduct better analyses,” he told Sermitsiaq AG.

Otherwise, the whole process could turn out to be “a bomb” for the new self-governing Greenland, he said.

Politicians should not to be seduced by multinational companies, cautioned Lynge, calling for Greenland’s government to pull itself together and hit the brakes on large-scale projects.

Lynge said Greenland has put too much of a focus on money and centralized control over the development its mineral resources, “which certainly was not what we imagined when I helped to negotiate the self-government agreement,” he told Sermitsiaq AG.

Resource development should benefit Greenlandic society and avoid contributing to another culture shock in Greenland, he said.

Greenland’s environmental group Avataq, previously criticized London Mining for the lack information it handed out to the public about the Isua mine.

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