Thursday, December 3, 2009
Seven mines in five years expected to open in Greenland
Greenland will open seven mines in the next five years, boosting the traditional hunting and fishing sectors, which are threatened by global warming, a senior minister said.
Aleqa Hammond, minister of finance and foreign affairs, told Reuters that the new projects include a gold mine, diamonds, zinc and lead, and an aluminum smelter,
"The zinc and lead (mines) will be opening in October," she said. Construction of the aluminum smelter should be complete by 2014.
Greenland is a self-governing province of Denmark. It has been mining gold and olivine since 2005 and 2006, respectively.
Eight of the world's largest oil companies are already exploring the country's western coast. "We know there is oil in Greenland. You can touch it coming out of the mountain," Hammond said, noting that production dates would depend on the explorers' success.
Boosting the oil and minerals sector would mean increased pollution risks as well as the possible inundation by foreigners of Greenland's 56,000 population.
Greenland also needs to adapt to the loss of livelihoods caused by rising sea temperatures and melting ice, she said. "Our whales are migrating different, our birds are migrating different, the salmon are in a different place - our hunters are having difficulty," she said. "We can no longer count on quotas for our fisheries. It is important for us to adapt," she said. Melting ice means that polar bears - who need the ice to hunt seals - must travel farther to look for food, traveling all over Greenland. To reduce their reliance on oil, Greenland is also seeking to boost its hydroenergy, Hammond said. Following on from the recent diamondiferous finds in the North Western Territories, emphasis has moved to the southern parts of Greenland, where Archaean craton is known to exist. Nearly all of the world’s diamondiferous pipes are located on or close to the edges of Archaean cratons. Consequently, most of the craton has been covered by licenses exploring specifically for diamonds.
Diamond exploration in Greenland is on the rise again, and in 2003 two Canadian companies carried out renewed exploration. Navigator Exploration Corp., which has an exploration licence 130 km north of Nuuk, not far from Maniitsoq, carried out follow-up work on an already known deposit of ultramafic breccia in 2003. Samples of this breccia are awaiting the result of an analytical programme. Earlier drillings at the site carried out in connection with nickel exploration confirmed that the breccia is also found at deeper levels. Laboratory studies and new drillings may elucidate whether this is Greenland's first diatreme (pipe) of kimberlite.
Analyses of indicator minerals from the area around Maniitsoq show that they originate from a kimberlitic source that had the right conditions for being diamondiferous.Hudson Resources Inc. concentrated its field work around the search for sites in the Sarfartoq area south of Kangerlussuaq where known kimberlitic deposits coincided with interesting geological structures and positive indicator minerals.
Results form the study showed that three of the samples contained a total of 20 microdiamonds.The company also funded a study of the geothermal gradient of the subsurface.This showed that the conditions that existed at the formation of the diamonds were just as favourable as in Canada where there are two active diamond mines.
During the summer of 2003, BMP and GEUS carried out a field programme in West Greenland.The fieldwork consisted of collecting of 'bulk' samples and geophysical and geological mapping of several diamondiferous kimberlitic rocks. The 'bulk' sample is much larger than the samples normally collected.Three large samples of a total weight of about 3 tonnes were removed. A total of 128 diamonds were found in the three samples.All the diamonds were less than 1 mm, but they were of good quality and state of preservation.
The diamond sparkle in Greenland's melting ice
Helicopters have been hard to hire in Greenland this northern summer. The reason? Diamonds.
As the ice cap recedes because of rising temperatures, rock covered for centuries could produce spectacular finds. The interest was sparked partly by the recent discovery of a 2.4-carat diamond at Garnet Lake, in west Greenland, the largest of 236 diamonds found in a trial dig in the area by Hudson Resources, of Vancouver.
The belief in Greenland's potential riches stems from its geology, identical to that found across the now ice-free North-West Passage in Canada.
But Greenland has other potential riches too. Gold has been discovered and is already being mined, although so far at a loss.
There are also deposits of other minerals, such as zinc. Oil companies are negotiating licences to explore blocks of the coastline. The dash for minerals is fuelling another debate in Greenland: whether the country should seek independence from Denmark.
With its 56,000 people scattered over an area almost the size of Europe, Greenland depends heavily on a subsidy from Denmark for survival.
The island has internal self-government but Denmark is responsible for foreign policy.
Aleqa Hammond, the Foreign Minister in Greenland's home-rule Government, hopes that the oil and mineral companies will create sufficient wealth for a break from colonial rule.
"It is natural for a country to want to be independent," she said. "We do not feel ourselves part of Europe — we are an Arctic people. But our way of life is changing and we have to change with it."
But some argue that independence has dangers. Greenland is the land mass closest to the North Pole, and has rapidly assumed greater strategic importance as its powerful neighbours vie for a slice of the Arctic's supposed mineral wealth.
The United States is strengthening its air base at Thule, on the extreme north of the island, and the Russians have already planted flags on the sea bed.
But Mrs Hammond believes the best prospect of buying its independence lies in hydro-electricity. The vast lakes and melting ice cap provide enormous potential for electricity free from fossil fuel.
But Professor Minik Rosing, of the University of Copenhagen, who was born in Greenland, is wary. A major mineral find could be catastrophic, he said. "With such a small population we could be overwhelmed by people coming to work here."
Paul Brown Nuuk, Greenland
October 8, 2007