Greenland says “naamik”

That’s “no” in Greenlandic in case you were wondering.

Greenland is part of Denmark but mostly autonomous. They have their own Parliament, for example. There are 57,000 people in Greenland which is just a little less than the population of Gilroy or Petaluma.

Greenland is really big. It’s the world’s largest island. At over 800,000 square miles it is bigger than Mexico but smaller than Argentina. Most of the people (primarily Inuit) live near the southwest coast.

Kvanefjeld is a region rich in rare earths and the worlds’ miners want to get their hands on the stuff. The rare earths, that is the lanthanides, aren’t all that rare. They are just hard to work with. The ores contain multiple elements with similar properties and so are difficult to separate.

There is an increasing international demand for these materials for both civilian and military uses. The US has designated them as critical minerals and is on the lookout for stable future supplies. Kvanefjeld appears to be a dream mining site—a rich deposit in a socially stable jurisdiction. Mining companies like to work in places that have law and order!

But the Greenlanders have other concerns. Kvanefjeld has uranium, too. Uranium is another critical international commodity. You can’t run nuclear power plants without the stuff. World demand is about 60,000 tonnes of uranium oxide (U308) annually. The Greenland Parliament just passed a bill that bans uranium mining, which will or course halt any further development of the Kvanefjeld resource.

Greenlanders don’t want to despoil their natural environment. They also want to grow economically and achieve more independence from their mother country, Denmark. It’s tough to do both.

People are naturally suspicious of mining companies. These outfits have a long track record of abusing the earth and ignoring the social fallout from their projects. The problem remains, however, that we need the materials they produce. We have to find a way to dig stuff out of the ground and process it into the stuff we need without destroying ourselves in the process.

I don’t know if Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat) is making the right choices. I do know that all of us will be making the same choices, if we aren’t already, going forward. We are going to need (literally) mountains of minerals to make our world! That’s a fact, an unavoidable fact. And we need clean air and pure water and good soil and healthy fisheries and all that other stuff, too.

Can we pull it off?

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