NEWS: Around the Arctic September 19, 2011 - 7:51 am

Huge Isua iron mine under development in western Greenland

“No known environmental issues" to deal with, says London Mining


Quicker than you can say “Mary River,” Greenland will be home to an iron mine by 2015.

The Isua iron mine may be somewhat smaller than Baffinland’s Mary River iron project on northern Baffin Island, but the mine has the potential to become an iron-producing powerhouse in fewer than four years.

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 of iron that Mary River wants to initially ship out over its 21-year lifespan.

Other infrastructure at Isua — which is expected to tally up to a total of 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 3-km conveyor and stockpile concentrate de-watering plant and storage there, 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 will bring the mine’s iron pellets to its buyers around the world.

London Mining wants to complete a social impact assessment study and its bankable feasibility study for Isua by the end of 2011.

Under the terms of the royalty agreement, Anglo Pacific, the UK’s largest international shipping company, agreed to pay $30 million to London Mining’s Greenland subsidiary in return for a one-per-cent royalty over the future sale of iron ore concentrate from the Isua mine.

Isua’s environmental impact statement should be out by early 2012 — and London Mining then plans to steamroll ahead with applications for construction in February of 2011.

The plan is to have the access road, airstrip and port infrastructure in place by September 2012,  followed by the construction of the plant and mine by May 2013, with a production start-up in early 2015.

Greenland has a “supportive and straightforward permitting process,” London Mining says.

And London Mining says there are “no known environmental issues” in its Isua project, which features a “clean design, low wastes, [and a] minimum footprint.”

However, there’s nothing comparable yet to the 10-volume, 5,000-page draft EIS prepared for the Mary River mine project for the Nunavut Impact Review Board on its website to prove those assertions.

Greenland’s environmental group Avataq, has slammed London Mining for the lack information it’s handed out to the public about the Isua mine, known as Isukasia in Greenland.

The company forgot to inform people in Nuuk about a public meeting at Nuuk’s Katuaq center in November 2010, said Pitannguaq Tittussen, the vice-chairperson of Avataq, in a recent statement cited in the Greenland newspaper, Sermitsiaq.

“When you look at the London Mining’s website, the only significant material is in English. There is very little information in Danish or Greenlandic,” Tittussen said.

Avataq, which says the Greenland government has also let London Mining violate its own guidelines for environmental assessments, maintains the Nuuk fiord and the surrounding lands and waters “will all be affected environmentally” by the proposed iron mine.

When the Isua mine’s bankable feasibility study is done, London Mining plans to ask Greenland to upgrade its exploration license to an exploitation licence.

Meanwhile, London Mining’s managers said in company videos posted on its website that they are looking for Chinese partners to move the project ahead.

The mine’s project manager, Dr. Xiaogang Hu, an engineer specializing in cold regions, was previously involved in the design and construction phases of mining projects in the Canadian Arctic, including the Voiseys Bay nickel and Diavik diamond projects, London Mining’s website says.