Moon mud: Greenland’s recipe for saving Planet Earth

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QEQERTARSUATSIAAT FJORD, Greenland, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Among the glaciers and turquoise fjords of southwestern Greenland, a mining firm is betting rock much like the one the Apollo missions introduced again from the moon can deal with a few of Planet Earth’s local weather change issues.

“This rock was created in the early days in the formation of our planet,” says geologist Anders Norby-Lie, who started exploring anorthosite on the distant mountain panorama in Greenland 9 years in the past.

More just lately, it has excited mining firms and buyers hoping to promote it as a comparatively sustainable supply of aluminium in addition to an ingredient to make fibreglass.

The authorities elected in April has positioned it on the centre of its efforts to advertise Greenland as environmentally accountable and even the U.S. area company NASA has taken word.

The mineral-rich island has change into a sizzling prospect for miners searching for something from copper and titanium to platinum and uncommon earth minerals, that are wanted for electrical car motors.

That may seem a straightforward answer to Greenland’s problem of the best way to develop its tiny economic system so it could actually realise its long-term purpose of independence from Denmark, however the authorities campaigned on an environmental platform and must honour that.

“Not all money is worth earning,” Greenland’s mineral assets minister Naaja Nathanielsen informed Reuters in an interview within the capital Nuuk. “We have a greener profile, and we’ve been willing to make some decisions on it pretty quickly.”

Already the federal government has banned future oil and fuel exploration and desires to reinstate a ban on uranium mining.

That would halt growth of one of many world’s greatest uncommon earth deposits, named Kuannersuit in Greenlandic and Kvanefjeld in Danish as a result of the deposit additionally accommodates uranium.

Kuannersuit, whose operator was within the last levels of securing a allow to mine, was a flashpoint situation in April’s election as a result of locals worry the uranium it accommodates may hurt the nation’s fragile atmosphere.

“As far as we are concerned, uranium is a political issue which is being driven by exaggerated and misleading claims,” licence holder Greenland Minerals (GGG.AX) CEO John Mair informed Reuters.

The mine may herald royalties of round 1.5 billion Danish crowns ($233 million) annually, the federal government has mentioned.

By distinction, income from two small mines working within the nation is negligible, and Nathanielsen says the federal government’s funds plans don’t assume any mining income.

THE DANISH MONEY TRAP

Some see little level in mineral exploitation till Greenland has achieved independence.

A Danish colony till 1953, the semi-autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark has the suitable to declare independence by means of a easy vote, however that’s more likely to be a distant prospect.

Greenland has commissioned work to draft a structure for a future impartial Greenland.

Meanwhile, Greenland’s 57,000 folks depend on fishing and grants from Denmark.

The grants can be lowered in proportion to future earnings from mining, prompting some to say the minerals must be left within the floor for now.

“Under the current agreement, large-scale mineral extraction makes no sense,” Pele Broberg, minister for enterprise and commerce, informed Reuters. “Why should we do that while we’re subject to another country?”

Others are involved the federal government is deterring funding in large-scale mining of extra standard minerals, which they are saying is the best way to diversify the economic system and make it able to standing alone.

Jess Berthelsen, head of Greenland’s labour union SIK, had hoped the deliberate mine at Kuannersuit and different large-scale tasks would create jobs and mentioned the Danish grants held Greenland again.

“Sometimes I wish Denmark would stop sending money, because then people in this country would start waking up. It’s lulling us to sleep,” he mentioned.

Business lobbyists in the meantime fear about authorities’s plan to reinstate a uranium ban – solely eight years after it was lifted.

“The companies are used to being under pressure from authorities, but they are not used to this kind of instability,” Christian Keldsen, head of Greenland Business Association, mentioned.

LOCAL SUPPORT

Those dwelling nearest to the standout mineral within the authorities plans for sustainable mining are likely to assist the pursuit of recent earnings.

“We have to find other ways to make money. We can’t just live off fishing,” mentioned Johannes Hansen, an area fireman and carpenter dwelling in Qeqertarsuatsiaat. The city of round 160 folks is about 50 minutes by boat from the deliberate anorthosite mine.

Greenland Anorthosite Mining, which is growing the mine, has a plan to ship 120 tonnes of crushed anorthosite to potential clients within the fibreglass business the place it says it has worth as a extra environmental various to kaolin.

The firm, which hopes to have an exploration allow by the top of 2022, says anorthosite melts at a decrease temperature than kaolin, has a decrease heavy steel content material and produces much less waste and greenhouse fuel emissions.

The larger intention is for anorthosite for use as an alternative choice to bauxite to provide aluminium, one of many minerals seen as central to decreasing emissions as a result of it may be used to make autos lighter and is totally recyclable.

Greenland Anorthosite Mining says aluminium might be produced extra simply than when bauxite ore, the first supply of aluminium, is used, and once more produces much less waste in contrast with current processes.

Anorthosite additionally matches in with European Union ambitions to diversify mineral sources. It is present in Canada and Norway, in addition to Greenland, whereas bauxite is concentrated in a belt across the Equator.

Asuncion Aranda, who’s heading an EU-funded analysis undertaking into anorthosite, mentioned the know-how had been seen to work though analysis is required to chop prices and minimise the environmental impression.

“We don’t know yet if our process will be competitive from the start compared with the established production method,” she mentioned.

“If all goes well and the aluminium industry is in, then we could see the first commercial production in eight to ten years.”

UNEARTHLY AMBITIONS

While the EU is concentrated on earthly makes use of and curbing emissions, NASA has ambitions to search out new environments for human exercise.

It has been utilizing crushed anorthosite powder from a smaller Greenland mine already in manufacturing, operated by Canadian-based Hudson Resources (HUD.V), to check gear as a part of an area race that will contain mining on the moon and even establishing communities there.

“The deposits in Greenland and elsewhere are not exactly like the moon, but they’re pretty darn close,” mentioned John Gruener, an area scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre.

“If we’re really going to live off the land at the south pole of the moon, which everybody is interested in now, we will have to learn how to deal with anorthosite, the dominant rock that’s there,” he mentioned. “Having another supply of anorthosite from Greenland is great.”

Climate campaigners aren’t so positive.

Greenpeace has campaigned in opposition to deep sea mineral extraction, saying it dangers disturbing ecosystems we now have not even begun to know and places ahead comparable arguments in opposition to mining in area.

“We need to be finding sustainable solutions, not looking for more sources in new frontiers. There is so much we just don’t know about these environments,” mentioned Kevin Brigden, senior scientist at Greenpeace Research Laboratory.

Asked concerning the considerations, Greenland’s useful resource ministry mentioned in an emailed assertion it didn’t count on minerals extracted in Greenland for use just for inexperienced know-how.

“But we work actively to optimise the green profile and utilise our resources in the service of the good cause,” it mentioned.

($1 = 6.4332 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; enhancing by Barbara Lewis

The camp of an exploration site of an anorthosite deposit is pictured close to the Qeqertarsuatsiaat fjord, Greenland, September 11, 2021. Picture taken September 11, 2021.   REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Geologist Anders Norby-Lie of the company Greenland Anorthosite Mining checks drilling cores at an exploration site of an anorthosite deposit close to the Qeqertarsuatsiaat fjord, Greenland, September 11, 2021.  REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

A worker of the company Greenland Anorthosite Mining checks stones after an explosion at an exploration site of an anorthosite deposit close to the Qeqertarsuatsiaat fjord, Greenland, September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke