Greenland government ready to outlaw uranium mining

New legislation aims to ensure that ‘Greenland neither produces nor exports uranium’

The town of Narsaq, Greenland. The Kuannersuit mining project would be located atop the plateau over the town. (Greenland Energy)

By Kevin McGwin
Arctic Today

Greenland has taken the first step towards outlawing uranium mining after lawmakers there proposed a stricter version of a ban that the country’s national assembly overturned in 2013.

Only July 2, the elected government began a month-long public consultation period for a proposed bill that, in addition to mining uranium, would prohibit the feasibility studies and exploration activities that must be completed before a mining project can be considered for a license to begin operation.

According to proposal, Naalakkersuisut, the elected government, is hoping that a reinstatement of what was known as the zero-tolerance policy, to achieve its goal of ensuring that “Greenland neither produces nor exports uranium.”

Overturning the original ban allowed Greenland Minerals, an Australian firm, to proceed with its efforts to establish a rare-earths mine at Kuannersuit (also known as Kvanefjeld), in southern Greenland. But that mine, which is currently in the final stage of the approval process, would be located in an area that is high in uranium, and residents of nearby Narsaq fear that activity there would kick up radioactive dust that would settle on the town.

Reimposing the ban would help the government achieve one of its election pledges: preventing Kuannersuit from becoming a reality.

“There is widespread popular resistance to mining projects involving uranium,” the government in the proposal. “The people of Greenland have also expressed their support for mining — as long as it doesn’t involve uranium and the associated risks.”

Similar statements made by the government shortly after coming to power in April led Orano, a French firm specialising in uranium mining, to announce it would halt its Greenlandic exploration program.

Greenland Minerals has said it expects mining authorities to respect the current approval process.

In May, shortly after taking office, Naaja Nathanielsen, the mining minister, sought to allay concerns that the government’s opposition to uranium mining would be interpreted by the industry as scepticism towards the entire industry by pledging that it would abide by the mining strategy adopted by its predecessor, and that, when it came to the Kuannersuit approval process, it would ensure that Greenland Minerals got a fair review.

Nevertheless, she made it clear that Naalakkersuisut would be working to find legal ways to ensure that uranium mining never takes place.

“We welcome the many promising projects throughout the country that do not involve radioactive elements.”

Uranium is singled out by the bill, but it also leaves open the possibility of prohibiting “other radioactive substances.” One of these, thorium, is a source of worry for opponents of the Kuannersuit mine, which calls for large quantities of it be disposed of in artificial lakes on the site.

This article originally appeared at Arctic Today and is republished with permission.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by John K on

    So Greenland wishes to make it clear that they aren’t interested in helping mitigate climate change.

    The ONLY viable way to transition from fossil fuels to green, renewable energy is nuclear power generation.

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    • Posted by Mark Christie on

      Nuckear power generation is neither renewable nor green. Think wind and solar.

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      • Posted by John K on

        I did not claim that it was. Take another read; I said nuclear is the transition.

        But having said that. It absolutely is green, it makes STEAM. And the 1 in 1,000,000,000,000 odds of a meltdown vs the guaranteed slow destruction of fossil fuels is pretty damn green if you ask me.

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        • Posted by The Old Trapper on

          And why would you not be able to transition directly from non-renewable (oil) to renewable (wind, solar)?
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          I don’t see the logic in saying that an intermediate step (nuclear) is required as wind and solar are well understood, currently in operation, and becoming more cost effective every day.
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          The only opposition to nuclear is from a safety aspect; radioactive exposure in the mining and production of the fuel, nuclear accidents in the operation of the power plant, and of course what to do with the spent fuel which remains radioactive. After 70+ years there still is not a good plan for the last item.

          As for your statistics, get real. Of the 667 nuclear power plants that have been built I can think of three (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima) that have had serious problems – so a 1 in 223 chance of meltdown, not great odds.

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          • Posted by John K on

            We haven’t perfected a method for magically willing enough infrastructure into existence to produce the amount of energy we need with solar, wind and hydro. But we can if we supplement the shortfall with nuclear power generation.

            You’re being disingenuous and openly ignorant with your statistics. There have been quite a few more incidents than the three you mentioned and the odds are still way, way higher than 1 in 223. Because that’s not how statistics work. And the fact that most people have never heard of these incidents is proof in concept that nuclear power is NO WHERE near as dangerous as people pretend.

            And we have dozens of solutions for storing spent fuel. But they’re invariably ignored because of cognitive dissonance and fear mongering.

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  2. Posted by Greener on

    I for one dont believe climate change is as measurable as they say. I think the earth naturally changes polarity as shown in the polarity of the oceanic floor upwellings, measurable as far as we care to go. When I was a child science said we were entering another ice age. Now over the last 20 years we are up by 0.5degree. I think climate change is another control, scare, government tax method. But that’s not what universities teach. No Noas arc either

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    • Posted by John K on

      People’s beliefs are irrelevant in the face facts and a century of data.

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  3. Posted by Scott on

    Meaningless. There’s centuries of uranium in other parts of the world that are more accessible. We don’t need to go to Greenland to get it.

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  4. Posted by Australian Investment Community on

    It is unusual that a person against this operation speaks of preferable alternate energy sources like wind and solar. Without even noting Kvanefjeld is being proposed as a rare earth mine of which such rare earths are needed in large amounts for the wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles within this space.
    Only 5% of revenue is proposed to be from uranium.

    A low content uranium mine is considered under 1000ppm. A high grade is 20,000ppm. Kvanefjeld is roughly 300ppm. It is so low content that even if the company returned the uranium to tailings the levels would not exceed the natural levels in surrounding river silt found at the bottom of local streams. Yet the population opposing it have all these unbiased fears absent this knowledge.

    Studies have been supplied from independent researchers that dust from the mine wont blow 6km away. Think about it. If you see a development site with trucks. Dust barely makes in 20m in these sorts of Greenlandic wet weather. How will it ever make 6km? Reports show that it wont and even on the worse days would only effect radiation levels above background by 1%. What more can be expected.

    The people of Greenland have been spooked by false facts. They have not spent the time to understand how 100 million has been invested in the project to ensure the best of the best have assured it can not be a problem and the Environmental Authorities have passed it as acceptable too. It is just the people who chose not to trust without any evidence as to why. Falling for media and corruption blinding them to the truth the operation adheres to the highest standards in the world.

    It will hinder Greenland’s economic future within mining for decades to come if miners see the public dismissing operations over fear absent knowing or understanding the fact that such fears are scientifically unfounded and not supported by international best practices or even their own Minerals Act in almost every way.

    It is like taking a car off the road for speeding when it was driving under the limit. Simply because you decide on that day you now don’t like that particular colour.

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