Spotlight Round-up: 12th November 2021
12th November 2021
Greenland’s parliament passed legislation on Tuesday banning the mining of any deposit in the territory with a uranium content over 100 ppm. That is an incredibly low bar, with the World Nuclear Association considering that very low grade. I consider this a truly unfortunate ruling by the territory’s government, and I’d like to explain why.
Firstly, let’s look at this from the perspective of Greenland itself. Currently owned by Denmark, the semi-autonomous territory has the right to declare independence from its Scandinavian overlords whenever it likes, and while polls show that most Greenlanders favour this move, they disagree over when it should be enacted. Most of them realise that their economy is not yet up to the job of surviving on its own, since, apart from fishing, their major source of income is Danish subsidies. Mining could change that, however, with retreating ice caps and ancient geology providing a heavily under-exploited terrain that is ripe for exploration and development of a wide array of minerals.
At the moment, Greenland is host to only two mines; an anorthosite titanium deposit and a gemstone operation digging up rubies and pink sapphires. But the territory is mineral-rich, and there is potential for deposits of everything from base metals like copper and titanium to PGEs and rare earth elements (REEs). The previous government, ousted in a snap election in April, seemed to have its eye on this prize, and had issued several exploration permits to companies looking to, at the very least, understand Greenland’s resource potential better. But the current ruling party, Ataqatigiit, has decided that a laser focus on environmental concerns trumps the potential benefits of mining, which include opening the economic door to independence.
Of course, this issue came to a head in Greenland because of the Kvanefjeld REE project, which Australian company Greenland Minerals (ASX:GGG) was developing, and which looked likely to be permitted by the previous government. In addition to REEs, Kvanefjeld contains significant uranium; hence the opposition. By no means am I dismissing environmental concerns associated with mining uranium-rich deposits; naturally, the costs and benefits of such mining must be carefully considered. But due to decades of experience and technological innovation, it is perfectly possible these days to mine such deposits with little environmental fallout, and instead of mandating environmental best practice, which would allow the mine to go ahead with all the economic benefits it could bring to the island, while posing a very low risk to Greenland’s indisputably priceless natural setting, Ataqatigiit decided to put the kibosh on the project altogether. Greenland Minerals put its shares on a trading halt on Wednesday, and today released a statement saying that it believed it could modify the Kvanefjeld project so as not to produce any uranium. We’ll have to see if that’s good enough for the new Greenland parliament, who seem to have it out for this project no matter what.
But there are reasons beyond Greenland’s shores to deplore this decision. Firstly, nuclear power still looks to us at Spotlight like a very good option for reducing carbon emissions in the near term, despite the furore it can cause in certain jurisdictions. For an example of that, have a look at our last EuroNews for information on the developing situation in Poland. But the fact is that nuclear can produce completely reliable, uncomplicated energy solutions from very small scales up. Its safety record, the biggest point of contention, is impeccable: it produces a miniscule fraction of the deaths associated with coal power, not to mention oil and gas, and it can replace them completely right now, unlike renewables. So a new source of uranium to supply that market should be seen as a blessing, not a curse.
And then there’s the issue of the other minerals associated with uranium-rich deposits. Kvanefjeld was always more interesting for its REEs than its uranium, because it could have been a massive source of these in a jurisdiction aligned with Western powers. I’ve written about this problem ad nauseum: basically, China doesn’t just produce 80% of the world’s REEs, it also holds virtually all the expertise in processing them, and this is a big concern to Western governments and manufacturers who see the importance of these metals only increasing as defence and green technologies that rely on them become more commonplace. It really is a shame that the world will now (likely) be denied access to a truly special REE deposit that could have helped shift this balance just a little.
It seems that, in Greenland at least, fearmongering over the very word “uranium” has been successful. Of course, we must always be mindful of the environmental fallout of mining projects, and there might even be some projects that should simply never go ahead for one reason or another. But surely, with all the economic benefits and political relief that Kvanefjeld could have brought to Greenland, it isn’t one of them.
Spotlight is coming to Mines & Money London! Not only will we be in attendance with the cameras out, chronicling everything that goes on at Europe’s biggest mining investment conference, we’ll also be hosting the best party of the event! That’s right, Spotlight Night (SpotNight) is back! To scratch that itch you’ve had for mining and networking over this whole pandemic, join us on the 1st of December near the conference site for a few good drinks and even better chats. For corona reasons, you need to pre-register, so you can do that here.
SpotNight wouldn’t be what it is without our brilliant sponsors, Enduro Metals and Warrior Gold. We’d like to thank them for their support of the event, and also let you know that CEO Danièle Spethman and Head of Corporate Development Daniel Rodriguez (Enduro) and CEO Cole Evans and Communications Manager Sean Kingsley (Warrior) will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the companies. What a night it will be!
We can’t get enough of Guanajuato Silver’s (TSXV:GSVR, OTCQX:GSVRF) recent news that the first $480,000 of gold and silver concentrate has shipped from its refurbished El Cubo mill in Mexico, so we made a video to celebrate! Production is ramping up, so grades and throughput are expected to increase over the coming weeks. Watch our video on this milestone below!
That’s all from me this week, I hope you all have a great weekend!