Greenland is living up to its name in more ways than one in our politically driven green energy age. The world’s largest island now finds itself square in the middle of a precious metals rush of supreme strategic importance to the world’s leading superpowers, the US and China. Both nations are participating by proxy with 2 Australian mining companies, one supported by US interests, the other by China mining concerns, to tap into Greenland’s rich REE deposits.
The lure of Greenland in the green age is what the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) called “the world’s biggest undeveloped deposits of rare earth metals”. Australian geologist Greg Barnes, the owner of Tanbreez Mining Greenland A/S and the Greenland site at Klinglerne explained in a Reuters interview that:
“Kringlerne is such a huge deposit that what comes out of it could satisfy manufacturing demands in the U.S. for years to come.”
Ironically, the alleged manmade global warming behind the politically-driven rush to green energy may be the same phenomenon that caused Greenland’s glaciers to recede. As ice fields withdrew from the green island, the doors were opened to huge deposits of rare earth minerals that the US needs for securing the domestic REE (rare earth elements) supply chain.
This in a world where China controls 90% of critical element production, and processing tends to be environmentally dirty enough that exploiting plentiful local REE deposits isn’t always an option due to resistance from environmental activists. China’s willingness to do the dirty work without regard to the environmental downside of green-technology support mining helps them maintain their iron fist control over the exports of these critical minerals. In a recent article, we highlighted the vast sectors of advanced manufacturing that are affected by REE availability.
The US under President Trump had been working to secure an essential “mines to magnets” supply line to achieve REE independence from CCP controlled China. The Biden administration is paying lip service to them if not actively pursuing those essential policies, saying they would work to prevent China from “weaponizing” rare earth element supplies in the future. Unwilling to rely on the fickle EO pens of the current administration, REE dependent manufacturers such as Tesla are already taking action to secure the domestic magnet and lithium-ion battery metal resources that are crucial for producing electric and hybrid vehicles.
What the Biden administration glosses over is the fact that the present global reliance on the 90% China rare earth element monopoly for essential electronics, quantum computing, national defense, electric vehicles, and wind and solar power manufacturing has already weaponized the supply chain. EU countries are taking notice as well. In fact, they provided the Greenland initiative seed funding for the Australian miners to reduce their own 98% reliance on Chinese exports.
All China has to do in order to disrupt any economy is to cease REE shipping, as they did with Japan a decade ago, wreaking havoc in the rare earth markets. Upping the strategic ante even further, the second Greenland site in question is China-backed and capable of producing radioactive elements used for nuclear weapons. The futures of both Greenland REE mining sites and the superpowers behind them will all come down to the people of Greenland themselves.
The Precious Metals Choice For Greenlanders
Super strong magnet metals are required to produce complex green machine technology including:
- wind turbines
- catalytic converters for the auto industry
- electric vehicles
- advanced combat aircraft
- missile guidance and weapons systems.
- LED screens
- Mobile phones
- Advanced optical lenses
The US-backed Tanbreez Kringlerne site would generate lanthanum and cerium at a rate of ½ of gross production, two relatively plentiful metals used in telescope lenses and auto catalytic converters to cut emissions. Yttrium for quantum computers and lasers will account for about 1/5th of the mine’s production. The company plans to pipe 550 tons of daily waste materials into a nearby lake equipped with a dam to prevent downstream disruption. Tanbreez has already cleared the public approval hurdles and is waiting on parliamentary approval from Greenland’s governing Kingdom of Denmark in Copenhagen.
The rival mine is a mountaintop site right nearby called Kvanefjeld, or Kuannersuit in Greenlandic. John Mair is the managing director of its owner, Greenland Minerals Ltd. The company sees their Greenland REE mine as the right opportunity at the right time when wind turbine production is causing spikes in demand for neodymium, and is projected to reach 13,000 tons per year by 2050.
But Greenland Minerals is facing severe opposition since they’ll be shipping out radioactive ore along with neodymium. Add to that the fact that Greenland Mineral’s majority shareholder is the voracious Chinese company Shenghe Resources, which holds 10% of the stake at Kvanefjeld.
Shenghe Resources is notorious for keeping a finger in every global REE pie, including holding a stake at the only US rare earth mineral processing plant in Mountain Pass, California. The other obstacle as far as Greenlanders are concerned is the fact that China will be shipping out uranium usable for nuclear weapons production as well as generating an astounding 8,500 tons of waste per day, all piped to a mountaintop lake. Concerns about radioactive dust and contamination leave the Kvanefjeld mine facing robust opposition. At a February 10th meeting in the nearby village of Narsaq, locals banged on windows and played loud music to disrupt the proceedings.
Whether Greenland chooses one REE mine or both in the General Election called for April 2021 will be interesting, especially with immense pressures and seed funding and initiatives for REE processing plants spreading throughout the European Union. The territory of Denmark’s Greenland population now lives largely on fishing grants from Copenhagen and is in dire need of the rare earth element returns that could add up to 15% of Greenland’s public spending in a fragile economy where GDP approaches just $3 billion.
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