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Mining for Greener Technologies

Greenland can supply critical raw materials to the EU

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That Greenland is rich in minerals and raw materials is general knowledge. The latest signals from Strasbourg and Brussels indicate that Greenland in the near future will be a hot topic in the discussions about raw materials and their procurement. The EU is particularly interested in rare earths and critical raw materials which China currently is almost the only country to produce.

Bendt Bendtsen, Member of the European Parliament and former Deputy Prime Minister (the Conservative Party) plans to present a proposal for discussion in the European Parliament's special group on raw materials to review Greenland's Partnership Agreement with the EU. The existing Partnership Agreement focuses on Greenland's export of fish to the EU and on the EU's education compensation to Greenland.

"The Partnership Agreement between Greenland and the EU can be reviewed and expanded to include EU financing mining activities in Greenland," says Bendt Bendtsen.

"I intend to initiate the discussion at the committee meeting where I will propose a review of the Partnership Agreement," says Bendt Bendtsen, who is a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in the European Parliament and therefore monitors the work with critical raw materials, also called rare earths, in a special working group.

The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy will present a report on rare earths in the near future. Globally, China is responsible for 97% of the extraction of Neodymium, a rare earth mineral. These rare earths are also available in other countries but so far only China has succeeded in making extraction financially viable.

Bendtsen, and no doubt others as well, are of the opinion that China keeps surplus stock to force the price up and in future will refuse to sell to companies without local production in the country. China already has export restrictions on these rare earths. A trade war on rare earths is imminent.

Gigantic deposits of rare earths in Greenland

The Australian company Rimbal plans to open a mine extracting ore with rare earths at Kringlerne in South Greenland in 2013. It is estimated to require investments in the order of DKK 1.6 billion. According to geologists this is likely to be the world's largest deposit of rare earths.

"The deposits of rare earths in Greenland are gigantic. We hope to be granted a mining concession by the Greenland Self-Government authorities at the beginning of 2012," says Hans Kristian Schønwandt, Danish member of the Australian mining company Rimbal's Board in Greenland, to the Børsen newspaper.

Bendt Bendtsen identifies the two places in Greenland where the rare earths can be extracted.

"There are two places, Kvanefjeldet in Narsaq, but here the raw materials are mixed with uranium, so that it is less than optimal, and Kringlerne between Narsaq and Qaqortoq, which has substantial deposits that can be mined," says Bendt Bendtsen to the Sermitsiaq AG media company.

The EU Parliament intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development will hold a meeting on rare earths in Greenland on 13 April.