Greenland to reinstate ban on uranium mining
In a few weeks, the Greenlandic parliament, Inatsisartut, is expected to pass a bill reinstating the ban on uranium mining which was lifted in 2013 under pressure from mining companies.
“The Greenlandic Minerals Minister has publicly stated that a ban on uranium mining will end all future uranium mining, period,” Mariane Paviasen, Greenlandic MP and leading anti-movement activist. – uranium mining, Urani? Naamik (Uranium? No), says Green Left.
Paviasen was elected to Inatsisartut in a snap election in April, as a candidate for the Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community for the People) (IA) party. IA has explicitly campaigned on a platform opposing a giant open pit mine proposed for Kvanefjeld (Kuannersuit in Greenland) by the controversial Australian company Greenland Minerals Ltd (GML).
GML was instrumental in overturning Greenland’s ban on uranium mining, Danish environmentalists say. He promoted the uranium mine as one of the largest in the world, in 2007, but now promotes Kvanefjeld as a rare earth mine, which will produce uranium as a by-product. It plans to dump this uranium-rich mining waste into Lake Taseq, above the small township of Narsaq (1,500 inhabitants), where Paviasen lives.
According to Niels Henrik Hooge, an activist of NOAH (Danish Friends of the Earth), this has been GML’s strategy for almost a decade and that of the former government of Greenland.
“It has no credibility with the public, given that the recent general election was more or less a referendum on Kvanefjeld and seen as a ‘uranium election’,” Hooge said. GL.
The Kvanefjeld uranium deposit is considered by GML to be the second largest in the world, second only to the Olympic Dam uranium mine in Australia. While uranium prices have fallen dramatically since the Fukushima reactor disaster, initiatives to promote nuclear power as a “solution” to global warming can already drive up prices.
Moreover, if GML imagines that presenting its Rare Earth mining project makes it somehow more “green”, that is not true. According to GML’s own estimates, the mine would increase Greenland’s carbon dioxide emissions by 45%.
NOAH and Renewable Energy, another Danish NGO, list many other serious environmental costs if the Kvanefjeld mine is allowed to develop. There are enormous risks of air pollution during surface mining, and even greater risks associated with the dumping of radioactive waste into Lake Taseq.
In addition to uranium, this radioactive waste would include thorium. The radioactivity in thorium tailings is 3 to 10 times that of uranium, the two NGOs said in their September 12 submission, in response to the mine’s latest environmental impact statement.
The tailings will pose health problems, even if the integrated dams behave as expected. The risk increases over time, primarily after mine closure and when monitoring and maintenance are complete.
In addition to the expected releases, there will be unintentional spills via leaks and accidents. In the long term, large areas around the mine will be contaminated with radioactive elements and non-radioactive substances, many of which are highly toxic, according to their submission.
“People living in polluted areas will be continuously exposed to radioactive and other toxic substances through drinking water, food and air. Seafood is also polluted due to the massive discharge of waste, especially sewage, along the coast. The bioaccumulation of radionuclides and non-radioactive chemicals can become a serious problem.
“All of this means that uranium mining at Kuannersuit, in addition to significant chemical pollution, will leave millions of tons of tailings containing some of the most toxic known radioactive substances, such as radium, thorium, radon and polonium, and this waste remains radioactive at a dangerous level. level for hundreds of thousands of years.
“In addition, the arctic environment is particularly vulnerable to pollution because it rebuilds itself very slowly, and the long-term consequences of uranium mining could be significant radioactive pollution, which due to the health hazard , may necessitate the prohibition of agriculture, fishing, trapping and breeding.
GML strongly advocated for the uranium mine ahead of the April elections. The company ran daily announcements claiming that the mine would generate US $ 245 million in taxes and royalties for the country’s economy each year and create 330 local jobs.
After the election, GML chairman Anthony Ho suggested to shareholders at the company’s AGM on May 26 in Perth that the company would be able to weaken opposition to the Kvanefjeld mine among the new generation of elected deputies:
“Now that they are in power they now have to run a country rather than campaigning rah, rah, rah – ‘Vote for me, I’m going to make you all millionaires and you are all going to have a beautiful sun and the fresh air, ”Ho said, according to a transcript released by environmental NGOs.
Ho said GML could “help them change their policies.”
“How are we going to help them achieve their aspirations of not mining uranium in Greenland without damaging [our] the interests of shareholders and shareholder value in the company and our project?
The answer, Ho suggested, was to treat the Kvanefjeld mine as an exception, even if the uranium ban was passed.
“If you look at the situation in Australia, when Bob Hawke was elected Prime Minister, he said there was no uranium mining. But then the mining department told him, “You can’t stop Jabiluka because it’s already happening.” So ‘okay’, he said, ‘Yes, no more uranium mining from now on, and Jabiluka can continue.’ So there are a lot of things you need to work with the government and help them achieve their goals and what they say during elections, without harming the country or the interests of shareholders. “
GML chief executive John Mair arrogantly noted at the AGM that since the new AI-led government is a coalition, things could “change in the blink of an eye.” He also joked about how many Greenlanders welcome global warming and that if the country doesn’t warm enough, then “when the mine starts up and they earn good wages they can go down to Spain and thaw out and come back for another fortnight.
GML shareholders laughed at it.
GML’s political aggressiveness may have something to do with its roots.
Sydney-based freelance journalist, writer and filmmaker Antony Loewenstein has been following the case since 2014. At the time, he wrote an article for the Guardian describing the political record of GML, then called Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd (GMEL), and its alleged control by a mysterious businessman, Mihran Shemesian, also known as “Mick Many Names”.
“In 2009, Fairfax media claimed that Shemesian controlled more than 20% of GMEL shares. Range Resources, another company linked to Shemesian, had previously been accused of paying the disputed government of Puntland state in Somalia, linked to Somali rebels, more than US $ 6 million (AU $ 9.3 million ) for the rights to the resources of the region, ”Loewenstein wrote. .
But, when Loewenstein asked Mair about Shemesian, he was told he was not “registered as a shareholder.” But Mair would not guarantee that Shemesian has no involvement with GMEL.
“Years ago I found troubling transparency issues around Australian company GMEL [now GML] and it should be treated with caution, ”Loewenstein said GL.
“This issue has received virtually no coverage in Australia and that begs the question; what is a relatively unknown Western Australian company trying to do in Greenland and what are their real motivations? Uranium mining in virgin territory should be categorically rejected. “
GML should stop pushing a mining project that clearly does not have a social license to operate, he added.
Dr Lian Sinclair, who observed GML’s latest AGM on behalf of the mining watchdog group, the Minerals Policy Institute, said GL: “GML refused to rule out litigation over a possible uranium ban and said they were committed to ‘quiet diplomacy’. It is of great concern … that an Australian company potentially engages in litigation or behind-the-scenes transactions away from public scrutiny to overthrow the democratic mandate of a small country. “
However, GML may have seriously crossed political lines this time around.
Greg Barnes, a Perth-based geologist who owns another mining company operating near Kvanesfjeld – and who is believed to have inspired former US President Donald Trump’s announcement two years ago that he could ‘buy Greenland’ – a interrupted Mair during the AGM of GML:
“Dude, you stink of Greenland. Your election advertising campaign probably did more to get AI elected than anyone else. “
He added that the company’s political intervention had “killed the project”.
It looks like Barnes might be right.
Paviasen, who chairs Inatsisartut’s committee for trade, commerce, mineral and petroleum resources, was adamant that the AI-led government and Greenland parliament would stand firm on the mining ban. uranium and the Kvanefjeld mine.
“There will be no exceptions,” she said. GL.
“Currently, GML holds an exploration permit, but a ban will make it impossible to obtain an operating permit containing uranium extraction, unless the resource is below the threshold of 100 parts per million. , which is unlikely.
“Also, keep in mind that GML already has a special clause in its exploration license that the Greenlandic government can reject a request to mine uranium for political reasons. This has been in effect since 2011 and has been maintained across several coalition governments of different policies. “