Thu, 20/11/2014 - 10:52

The Kvanefjeld of the future – new, attractive jobs for Greenland

By John Mair,
Ph.d., Managing Director of Greenland Minerals & Energy Ltd

Since 2007 Greenland Minerals & Energy has researched the Kvanefjeld and developed a world-class mining project. After eight years of intensive work, in a few months the Greenland government receives our application for the exploitation licence. The Kvanefjeld contribution to Greenland society will be one thousand new jobs as the mine is constructed and 735 jobs when it is operating. The mine will bring in 400 million in corporate taxes plus income tax from its employees. The mine will bring in new possibilities, not just for Narsaq, but all of Greenland.

Get a job at the Kvanefjeld – stay on the coast
The Kvanefjeld of the future can be one of Greenland’s big job opportunities. New houses must be built for employees, a harbour must be constructed, along with roads, a factory, mining personnel is needed etc. We will need all kinds of labour: Mechanics for mashines, lorry drivers, office staff, guards, engineers, geologists and artisans of all kinds. There will also be a need for various subcontracors for the mine: Hairdressers, supermarket and hotel staff, taxi drivers and many others.

Thanks to your language policy, there will be work for everyone, no matter which language you speak – and we offer both English and Danish courses. The Kvanefjeld of the future is also a flexible workplace where it will be possible to work shifts, so employees can go on living in the costal district and fly to and from working at Narsaq during certain periods.

Respect for nature, animals and human beings
Establishing a mine on the Kvanefjeld in Narsaq is a comprehensive endeavour. Throughout the years Greenland Minerals & Energy has cooperated closely with various goverments in order to live up to their demands and wishes. We have employed specialists from around the world in order to comply with the highest possible standards of environmental protection, social welfare etc. During this process all aspects of the influence of the mine has been studied with extreme thoroughness: Water, wind, human beings, animal life and many other factors. More than thirty of the world’s best and most competent companies in their separate fields have been involved and around 500 million kroners have been spent on the initial research.

During these last months the final work is carried out on the research into social and environmental consequences, after which we will apply for an exploitation licence. The very lengthy research process has meant that light has been shed on all imaginable aspects of the mine’s impact on the environment, on human beings and on animals. As a natural part of the approval process a hearing will be held where everyone is free to ask questions and influence the shaping of the mine. Greenland Minerals & Energy look forward to complying with all demands and standards imposed by the authorities. However, Kvanefjeld can only be a reality with full cooperation between Greenland stakeholders, and GME.   

Kvanefjeldet er unikt
The Kvanefjeld contains one of the world’ largest deposits of rare earth elements, as defined by internationally recognised reporting codes, and internationally-respected consultants. Yet only 20% of the project area has been studied, such that the resources can continue to grow. Importantly, Kvanefjeld is a mining project that is unique to Greenland, and therefore, a special opportunity. The rare earth elements are sixteen metals with very special properties, used in for instance wind mills, electric car batteries, plasma screens and mobile phones. As we extract these rare earth elements,  uranium will be a by-product. It is not technically possible to leave the uranium in the ground. 80 percent of the mine’s turnover will come from rare earth elements and 20 percent from uranium. However, uranium revenues provide Greenland with an advantage, that allows for the project to be economically competitive in international markets. This is exactly what Greenland’s emerging minerals industry needs – competitive advantage.

On the scaIe of the mine which we apply for there will be potentially one hundred years of mining activity. High demands are made on mining. There are also strict demands on how the mine area is left once the mine is no longer active. During its entire lifetime the mine’s skyline will be the same viewed from Narsaq – it is to be an enduring landmark for the greatness of the Kvanefjeld, an important statement to the world.

The challenges of uranium
Greenland is hitorically a nation of hunting and fisheries. In later years various governments have focused on the possibilities of developing a mining industry. In September 2010 the government changed the ”Standard terms of research licences in Greenland”. GME applied for, and in November of 2011 was granted the licence for our research to also include the uranium, which we have known since the 1950’s to be present in the Kvanefjeld. This was a clear and positive signal from the government that Greenland wants to develop a mining industry in which uranium can be a by-product. At the same time it was an important political statement, as the government by doing so repealed its zero tolerance policy of any mining projects containing uranium.

The rare earth elements will be marketted to industry on the world market. The uranium will be sold only to users that conform to strict international conventions, that are monitored tranparently, in accordance with agreements made directly with governments in countries with nuclear power stations needing the uranium for electricity or heat. There are 131 nuclear power stations in the EU and 37 percent of all the electricity in the EU is generated by nuclear power stations. Sweden alone has ten nuclear power stations, France has fifty-eight. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affaires cooperates with the Greenland authorities in putting the final touches to how control and export of the uranium will take place according to the highest international standards and under the strict control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

There are uranium mines in countries like Australia, the United States and Canada. These countries have been handling the extraction of uranium for many years. Greenland Minerals & Energy will work according to at least the same standards as in these countries. The Greenland government has since 2010 conducted initiatives to learn about the extraction and regulation of uranium in these leading mining countries. We are aware that Greenland does not possess extensive mining experience. This experience and knowledge is present in many other countries and this is why specialized international staff will help run the mine.

A future for all
The Kvanefjeld of the future will be a positive contribution to the development of Greenland, a development that must take place in close cooperation with the people of Greenland. This is why the last three governments have maintained a significant flow of information to large parts of Greenland, supported by GEUS and others. Parts of the government and civil service have travelled to Canada, and Australia to learn more. Only in June a seven-day conference was held in Narsarsuaq, and we visited seven north coast towns in August to inform about the mining project. Last year we carried out an information tour of the south coast.

We realize that opinions differ regarding the mining project.  It is true that Narsaq will change fundamentally from the day we start construction of the mine, which is why we endeavour to keep everyone informed and enter into a close dialogue with the population there.  Only through information and a serious dialogue on the project can we create a communal and safer future to benefit all the people of Greenland who desire a future of new jobs and a stronger, more independant economy based on Greenland’s very own resources. Greenland Minerals and Energy is committed to establishing opportunity for Greenland, through consistent involvement and participation from Greenland stakeholders in planning and assessing the Kvanefjeld opportunity.

This article was published in the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq November 14, 2014.


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