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September 20, 2021

Greenland prepares legislation to ban uranium exploration and mining

The Kvanefjeld mine, which has an initial operational life of 37 years, is expected to produce rare earth minerals and uranium.

Greenland’s newly formed government is reportedly preparing legislation that would ban mining at uranium mines and cease development of the Kvanefjeld mine.

Owned by Australian firm Greenland Minerals, the Kvanefjeld mine is claimed to be one of the world’s biggest rare-earth project.

A public hearing ended this week on the project, which has an initial operational life of 37 years.

Located near the southern town of Narsaq, the project is expected to produce all commercially important rare earth elements, including neodymium, praseodymium, terbium and dysprosium, as well as uranium.

If extracted, the project’s uranium reserves are believed to adversely affect the country’s environment.

The new bill would also include the option to ban the exploration of other radioactive minerals such as thorium. The bill is planned to be passed in the upcoming months.

Greenland Mineral Resources Minister Naaja Nathanielsen was reported by Reuters in an interview as saying that Greenland’s left-leaning government intends to ban exploration on deposits that have more than 100 parts per minute (ppm) uranium concentration, which is considered very low-grade by the World Nuclear Association.

In April 2021, this government came to power following a campaign against the Kvanefjeld project development.

Nathanielsen said: “What we know is that the background radiation in and around Narsaq is quite high, which means that the project will collide with the upcoming zero-tolerance policy on uranium mining.”

The Kvanefjeld project, which secured preliminary approval last year, was due to receive final approval under the previous government.

Greenland Minerals CEO John Mair told Reuters that the firm believes to hold the ‘valid right to pursue an exploitation licence for the project in compliance with Greenland laws’.

Through its Chinese partner Shenghe Resources, Greenland Mineral has already spent more than $100m preparing the mine and has proven processing technology.

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