Sunday, February 12, 2017

Is uranium mine the answer to Greenland money problem

Michael Oneal reports for The Washington Post:

With a territory larger than Mexico and a population that could fit inside a football stadium, Greenland badly needs new sources of income to provide jobs and combat chronic social ills. Its economy leans heavily on one major export — shrimp — and is propped up by an annual block grant of more than $500 million from Denmark.

The question is what to do about it. Many in Greenland, including Prime Minister Kim Kielsen, view resource development as the nation’s best chance for self-sufficiency. 

The issue is tightly intertwined with Greenland’s fervent movement to win independence from Denmark, which began colonizing the sprawling territory almost 300 years ago. Greenland negotiated the right to self-rule in 1979 and has since built the institutions of a modern democratic society.

The next step, pro-development interests think, is to launch large-scale mining projects to jump-start a diversification of the economy. Opponents counter that courting foreign mining interests amounts to swapping one form of dependency for another, with the added risk of environmental degradation.

The policy debate is playing out in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, but the struggle is more palpable in Narsaq, where mining companies propose digging into a treeless mountain called Kvanefjeld that rises imposingly just outside of town. 

The mine would produce 3 million tons of ore per year when at full production. It would be the world’s second-largest rare-earth mine; its overall footprint, including disposal areas and housing for workers, would be close to five square miles.

See in-depth story, photos and graphics here

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