The parliament of Greenland voted to lift the country’s ban on the extraction and mining of radioactive materials. This is a bit of good news to several uranium mining companies who are looking into investing in putting up mining facilities in the country. The parliament vote not only will allow the pending Kvanefjeld project to continue its drilling operations, it is also quite a relief for many mining companies who have been banned from extracting some of the sough-after materials from the country due to the long-standing ban.
The long-standing ban started in 1988 when the Greenland authorities pushed and approved a zero-tolerance policy against the mining of radioactive elements, including uranium. Greenland was still under Danish direct rule at that time. In a very close 15-14 vote, the parliament of Greenland finally lifted the ban. The move will prompt an increase in investments to the country from several mining companies.
The island of Greenland transitioned from ‘home rule’ to ‘self rule’ in 2009 when it moved towards greater autonomy from Denmark during that year. With that official transition, Greenland assumed and took full authority over its hydrocarbon and mineral rights. Those rights were previously overseen by Denmark. This is not a full autonomy, however. Greenland is still a part of the kingdom of Denmark. The drafting and approval of defense and foreign policies of Greenland is still under the authority of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.
A year after the transition, the Greenland government amended its laws to allow mining companies to do feasibility studies on extracting uranium stocks and other radioactive materials and other potential mining activities on areas with high concentrations of uranium and other radioactive elements. This initiative as led by the Inuit Ataqatigiit party in September 2010.
Then, in 2012, the government of Greenland released several reports addressing the purported consequences of removing the “zero-tolerance” policy towards mining of radioactive elements. Those reports aim, as well, to address the different roles of both the Greenland government and Denmark government in managing and regulating the exploitation of uranium. Those reports also identified all international conventions that need to be complied and adhered to. Most importantly, those reports investigated the potential health and environmental risks of extracting radioactive elements off the earth.
The Danish government is not exactly happy with Greenland’s move. In a categorical statement, the Danish government said that even though it supports Greenland’s decision to expand and develop Greenland’s mining industry, the Danish government pointed out that mining and exporting uranium could have “far-reaching foreign, defen[s]e and security implications.” Denmark also called the Greenland government to make sure that they meet the highest international standards in the mining and exporting of uranium. Denmark and Greenland will purportedly develop a pact that will form a framework for further cooperation.
The move by the Greenland parliament will help boost uranium production in that part of the world. Greenland Minerals and Energy, an Australian mining company, welcomes the “landmark decision,” as well, as they are now completely authorized to continue their study that will evaluate the feasibility of operating a uranium mining facility in Kvanefjeld southern Greenland.