Rare-earth monster mine fuels world’s largest island’s dreams of independence

MOSCOW — With the relations between Denmark and peripheral parts of the Danish Realm having gone somewhat sour, Copenhagen hopes to entice independence-seeking Greenlanders with a massive uranium mine.

To ensure Greenland’s loyalty, Denmark hopes to seduce separatist islanders with a huge mining project to reciprocal benefit. However, the controversial project may reach the opposite effect, rekindling the Greenlanders’ dreams of independence.

The proposed open pit mine in Kvanefjeld in southern Greenland, which is located about 8 km from the village of Narsaq, will in the coming decades crush over 100 million tons of ore to extract Greenland’s rich natural resources, most notably uranium and rare-earth metals.

According to an environmental report by Danish Radio, the Kvanefjeld mine will have an annual processing capacity of 3 million tons per year, successfully becoming the world’s second-largest rare-earth mine and fifth-largest uranium deposit.

The mine is predicted to have a lifespan of about 37 years and hire around 800 employees, at least 325 of whom will be Greenlanders. The mine will run around the clock.

In addition to the open pit mine, there are plans for two processing plants, a new port for shipping raw materials and the uranium, houses for workers, a power plant and storage depots, all of which will clearly breathe new life into Greenland’s barren landscape.

According to Denmark’s provisional plans, the mud-like waste products, consisting of crushed ore, water and chemicals used for extraction will be disposed of in a nearby lake. As the lake is not big enough, the mining company plans to build two extra dams to help contain the waste. According to the project, some 21,000 tons of chemicals will be used each year to extract the desired substances.

The mine’s shutdown period is expected to take another six years. After the final closure, the empty mine will be filled with rainwater.

Ironically, the grandiose mining project might end up playing into the hands of independence-seeking politicians, who rest their dreams on industrial projects in order to diversify Greenland’s economy and alleviate the island’s dependence on a locked Danish subsidy of 3.2 billion DKK (roughly USD 500 million), which constitutes about half of its budget.

At present, Greenland, the world’s largest island has a meager population of 55,000 that could fit inside a large football stadium and a lopsided economy that relies heavily on shrimp exports.

Besides chronic social ills, such as alcoholism and a high crime rate, potential industrial projects on Greenland are challenged by a notoriously harsh climate and an almost total absence of infrastructure.

Since there is obviously no way of extracting lucrative minerals without generating radioactive waste, the project implies substantial environmental risks and is met with fierce opposition from Greenlandic environmental activists, which may thwart the islanders’ dreams of independence. PNA/Sputnik -northboundasia.com