There is a school yard chant which goes, “Iceland is covered in green, But Greenland is covered in ice”.
For the mining sector – and one of the world’s largest undeveloped rare earths and uranium projects – Greenland really has turned “green” and put its plans on “ice”.
The new government, led by the anti-mining minority party Inuit Ataqatigiit, has sent a shiver down the spine of potential mine developers and potentially cast a shadow over future global supplies of rare earths and uranium.
Inuit Ataqatigiit’s main target is ASX-listed Greenland Minerals Ltd. (ASX: GGG) which has been attempting for years to obtain permit approval for the development of its world-class Kvanefjeld Project.
The Kvanefjeld Project, located in southern Greenland, is a large scale rare earths development with uranium produced as a by-product – which has raised significant concerns with environmentalists.
Greenland Minerals says these minerals can be effectively beneficiated into a low-mass, high value concentrate, then leached with conventional acidic solutions under atmospheric conditions to achieve particularly high extraction levels of rare earths. It adds that this contrasts with the highly refractory minerals that are common in many rare earths deposits that require technically challenging and costly processing.
The rigorously developed process route for Kvanefjeld has been the subject of several successful pilot plant campaigns. Uranium and zinc will be recovered as by-products in low incremental costs. Kvanefjeld provides an excellent opportunity to introduce a large, stable supplier at prices that are readily sustainable to end-users.
It also says that rare earths from Kvanefjeld will be produced in an environmentally sustainable manner further differentiating it as a preferred supplier of rare earth products to end-users globally.
Inuit Ataqatigiit’s election victory instantly raised a “red flag” for the mining sector – Greenland Minerals in particular – which was further highlighted in early July when the nation’s Ministry of Mineral Resources released a draft bill banning uranium mining and exploration and limiting the amount of uranium present as a by-product in any mining operations to 100 parts per million – a number which appears to be aimed at Greenland Mineral’s development plans.
For its part, Greenland Minerals says it will continue to push forward with its plans, including attempts to sit down with the new government and to continue its public consultation process for the project.
The company has also voiced its aims to seek advice on the protection and enforcement of its legal position, rights and assets, including the right to be granted an exploitation licence.
Greenland Minerals is not the only international company that has been hit by the recent election results. It has been reported that French nuclear group Orano will not push ahead with a planned uranium exploration campaign in Greenland.
The company had been awarded permit approvals for the exploration work, but it quickly moved to shut down its campaign following the election.
Miners making inroads
However, not all international mining companies have received bad news from Greenland since the election. In early July, Australia’s Eclipse Metals Ltd (ASX: EPM) received approval for an initial fieldwork programme at the Ivittuut Project from the Greenland government and started its initial work to take samples for preliminary testing and drill hole identification.
Eclipse acquired the Ivittuut project in January this year and, in May, the company announced it had applied for approval to undertake an initial fieldwork programme on exploration licence MEL2007-45, Ivittuut, Greenland.
Approval to commence on 1 August 2021 was granted following receipt of formal advice from the Greenland Mineral Licence and Safety Authority.
Eclipse’s executive chairman, Carl Popal, said this approval will enable Eclipse Metals to make an assessment of access, ground conditions, and confirmation of geological features at Ivittuut.
“Approval from the Greenland government is an important step and allows us to move ahead with our plans at Ivittuut, which once hosted the world’s largest known mineable resource of naturally occurring cryolite as well as REE-bearing minerals and a nearby REE bearing carbonatite formation,” Mr Popal said.
Eclipse’s approved programme of work at Ivittuut will include field assessment and general inspection and familiarization by the new field team, sampling of the existing mullock heaps and sampling of geological bulk intrusions.
This appraisal will pave the way for further testwork to facilitate calculation of a JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate and project feasibility study.
“An initial sampling programme will include collection of representative samples from the Ivittuut mine tailings and low-grade waste dumps and the Gronnedal-Ika carbonatite,” he concluded.
Other international companies keeping a close eye on the election fall-out is AIM-listed Alba Mineral Resources Plc (AIM: ALBA), which has released a significant Exploration Target for the Thule Black Sands Ilmenite Project in northern Greenland.
An independently produced Exploration Target was declared for TBS of 70-300Mt at a grade of 35-50% THM with an in-situ ilmenite grade of 6-11%.
This Exploration Target is due to be tested in a forthcoming drilling programme if there are no new permitting hold-ups.
Alba has recently completed its planned diamond-drilling programme at the Amitsoq Graphite Project in southern Greenland, confirming the existence of two significant and laterally continuous graphite horizons.
Several graphite intersections are considerably thicker than expected from the modelling, up to 8.19m in the Upper Graphite Layer and up to 15.54m in the Lower Graphite Layer.
Another company, Canada’s Major Precious Metals Corp. (CNSX: SIZE), is hoping to move ahead with its exploration plans at the large Skaergaard Palladium Project.
The company signed a contract with Forage Fusion Drilling Ltd. in May to complete the Phase 1 drilling programme on the project. Contracts have also been signed with Air Greenland for helicopter support and with Xploration Services Greenland for field administration and logistics support.
A converted icebreaker ship (MV Blue Sea Star) has been secured by the company to provide accommodation for field crews is being retrofitted with a helipad.
Chairman and CEO, Tony Williams, has voiced confidence that the new government will be supportive of Major Precious Metal’s plans.
“Recent positive comments from Ms Naaja Nathanielsen, the recently appointed Greenland Minister for Natural Resources, have reconfirmed that the new government is determined to build a successful mineral extraction industry and will provide continued support for sustainable mining projects.”
“The company has established excellent relationships with the Greenland regulatory authorities and will maintain the rigorous environmental and social standards expected in today’s resource sector.”
“The strategic geopolitical importance of Greenland’s mineral sector is already being recognised and attracting some substantial development finance from a number of European Agencies as well as from the Export-Import Bank of the United States,” Mr Williams said.
So now it appears to be a period of wait-and-see to ascertain just which way the Greenland government will turn. Will it be a green light, or will they put the local mining sector on ice?