Greenland’s parliament says yes to uranium extraction

Aleqa Hammond’s government wins vote by 15-14 margin

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

In a tight vote, Greenland legislators have said yes to uranium extraction.

In Greenland’s parliament Oct. 24, a vote to overturn a 1988 ban on mining rare earth minerals and uranium passed by 15 to 14.

Quoted in the Arctic Journal, Greenland premier Aleqa Hammond, who leads the coalition government that supported overturning the ban, said it is important to start uranium mining as soon as possible.

“We can’t stand by as unemployment rises and the cost of living goes up, while our economy remains stagnant. We need to overturn the ban now,” Hammond said.

The vote took five hours to complete after extensive debate in parliament.

Uranium mining was a hot topic in Greenland’s March 12 election, with many calling for a public forum or debate on the issue.

But the vote is good news for Australian-based company Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd.

The company needs to remove uranium from a site in southern Greenland called Kvanefjeld to extract rare earths.

The Kvanefjeld site is said to be one of the top 10 largest rare earths deposits in the world

Environmental groups have previously urged both Greenland and Denmark to avoid voting for reversal of the ban, including the environmental groups Avataq, NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark, and the Ecological Council.

The vote means that large mining operations involving rare earths can be developed.

Greenland’s minister for industry and minerals, Jens-Erik Kirkegaard, said the signing of the licensing agreement is a “historic moment for Greenland.”

“I’m really proud that the government has been successful in carrying through the largest commercial project to date in Greenland. It will undoubtedly affect employment and state revenue in a very positive direction,” Kirkegaard said in a press release.

The press release said Greenland has been waiting more than a decade to “become a mining nation.”

“And with this agreement the first major steps have been taken in this direction. It has been hard work to reach this point,” the press release said.

Meanwhile, London Mining Inc., owner of the Isua iron project, released a press release saying it has been awarded “an exclusive 30-year exploitation license for its 100 per cent owned Isua Project.”

Greenland still has to finish an impact benefit agreement for the project, however.

London Mining — the U.K.-based, Chinese funded mining company — already has plans to open the Isua mine by 2015.

At a cost of $2.3 billion, Isua, about 150 kilometres from Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, would ship 15 million tonnes of high grade iron ore a year for 15 years.

“Isua is an important project for Greenland and its development will help deliver key objectives for Greenland of economic growth and diversification from sustainable mining activity,”the chief executive officer at London Mining, Graeme Hossie, said in a press release.

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