Photo: "Greenland" by Stig Nygaard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The article talks about the problems surrounding the plan to set up mines of rare earth metal in Greenland. Greenland has massive resources of rare earth metals used to create compact, super-strong magnets which help power equipment such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, combat aircraft, and weapons systems. This “rare earth” is abundant all over the world but processing them is difficult and dirty.

Photo: "Greenland" by Stig Nygaard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Two Australia-based mining companies are seeking approval to mine the metals in two different locations in Greenland. Both sites are only 16 kilometers apart. The companies plan to send the metals to China, where most of the processing activities are. Meanwhile, Greenland gave the U.S. military almost unlimited rights there, and Greenland houses the northernmost U.S. military base. Trade-war between China and the U.S. only makes the situation more complicated.

The local communities have divided opinions on the plan. At one meeting on February 10, locals disrupt presentations of the mining companies by banging windows and played loud music to show their disagreement on the plan. A small pro-mining party, Demokraatit, triggered a general election by pulling out of Greenland’s coalition in early February. Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA), which has a zero-tolerance policy for uranium, wants to halt the mining project but agrees with the other company as it is seen as less of a threat to the environment.

The mining waste will go to a lake. The lake does not contain fish but feeds a river with a large population of Arctic char. The mines will produce at least 550 tonnes a day of waste material into the lake and will dam it to prevent disruption downstream.

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