The plundering of Greenland | Beyond Nuclear International

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Country threatened with world’s second largest open pit uranium mine

Uranium and other resources the latest threat to precious sub-arctic ecosystems

By Niels Henrik HoogeThe governments of Greenland and Denmark are encouraging large-scale mining in Greenland, including what would be the second-largest open pit uranium mine in the world. Now groups are calling on those governments to halt such desecration and instead establish an Arctic sanctuary. Your organization can sign onto this petition. Read the petition here then send your organization name (and logo, optional) to either Niels Henrik Hooge at nielshenrik@noah.dk or to Palle Bendsen at: pnb@ydun.net.

No or few World Heritage Sites probably have more or bigger mining projects in their vicinity than the Kujataa UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) in Southern Greenland. The property was inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage list in 2017.

It comprises a sub-arctic farming landscape consisting of five components that represent key elements of the Norse Greenlandic and modern Inuit farming cultures.

On one hand they are distinct, on the other they are both pastoral farming cultures located on the climatic edges of viable agriculture, depending on a combination of farming, pastoralism and marine mammal hunting. The landscape constitutes the earliest introduction of farming to the Arctic.

Some of the world’s biggest mining projects are located near Kujataa

Kujaata is situated in Kommune Kujalleq, the southernmost and smallest municipality of Greenland with its rich mineral resources. These include zinc, copper, nickel, gold, diamonds and platinum group metals, but first and foremost substantial deposits of rare earth elements (REEs) and uranium.

Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap. (Photo: Kommune Kujalleq, Birger Lilja Kristoffersen)

Greenland is estimated to hold 38.5 million tons of rare earth oxides, while total reserves for the rest of the world stand at 120 million tons. Furthermore, Greenland has some of the world’s largest undiscovered oil and gas reserves and could develop into the next environmental frontline – not unlike the Amazon Rainforest in South America.

Some of the biggest REEs mining projects in the world are located only a few kilometres from the Kujataa WHS. The biggest and most controversial is the Kvanefjeld REEs-uranium mining project, owned by the Australian company Greenland Minerals Ltd., GML. According to GML, in addition to containing the second biggest uranium and by far the largest thorium deposits, the Ilimaussaq Complex, of which Kvanefjeld is a part, possesses the second largest deposits of rare earth elements in the world. 

The mine, which would be the world’s second largest open pit uranium mine, is located on top of a mountain, almost one kilometre above sea-level, and only six kilometres away from Narsaq, a town of approximately 1,500 inhabitants, and also near some of the parts of the Kujataa WHS.

A second major project close to Kujataa is the Kringlerne REEs mining project, which is described by its owner, the Australian mining company Tanbreez Mining Greenland A/S, as the probably largest deposit of REEs in the world. 

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