Greenlandic authorities have told Greenland Minerals, an Australia-listed mining firm, that it does not intend to issue a licence for its Kuannersuit rare-earths mining project because the operation would violate legislation that bans uranium mining. In addition to being rich in rare earths, the bedrock near the town of Narsaq (pictured above) in southern Greenland where the mine would be located also contains three times more uranium than is permitted by the ban.
Greenland’s legislature reinstated the ban in November as part of an effort to prevent the Kuannersuit project from going forward. The measure all but sounded the death knell for a project that had long been on track to be one of the world’s biggest rare-earths projects.
After initially being granted a licence to explore the Kuannersuit area as the site of a potential mine in 2007 (when the company was known as Greenland Minerals and Energy), Greenland Minerals was granted preliminary approval in 2020 to begin operations, pending approval of independent reviews of the impact operations would have on the surrounding area, including Narsaq, located 8km from the Kuannersuit site.
The project’s outlook changed dramatically last April, when it was a key — and ultimately decisive — issue in a snap general election that saw the previous government replaced by a coalition that had campaigned on opposition to uranium mining.
After being told on repeated occasions after the election that the government would work to put the kibosh on Kuannersuit, Greenland Minerals decided in March to open arbitration proceedings against the governments of Greenland and Denmark. Reinstatement of the ban came after it was lifted in 2013 in order to allow the company to develop the Kuannersuit site, and it is hoping that arbitrators will either decide that it should remain exempt from the law, or that it be compensated for the reported €12 billion it has spent operating in Greenland.
“Greenland initially invited us as foreign investors to develop a rare-earth project and contribute to the Greenlandic economy,” Daniel Mamadou, the managing director of Greenland Minerals, said. “Since 2007, the company delivered on its commitment to deploy all the human and financial capital required to support the establishment of Kvanefjeld (Kuanersuit, ed) as a world-class asset.”
Greenland Minerals has two weeks to review the decision and submit its comments. The company plans to object to the decision, even though spokespeople have said it fully expects it not to be altered. Instead, Greenland Minerals is focusing its efforts on the arbitration proceeding, which it frets may be influenced by the impending rejection.
“Despite the current situation, we hope the legal process will allow for a fully informed assessment of the project according to the local laws and regulations and the terms of the exploration licence that we have relied upon in good faith for over a decade, and a reconsideration of this draft decision,” Mr Mamadou said.
Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal
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