Greenland is the largest island on Earth and the least populated country on Earth, with population of only 56, 749. Greenland has been influenced by migration from Canada since 5000 years and under European influence (Norway and later Denmark) since a millennium. Norsemen settled on the uninhabited southern part of Greenland beginning in the 10th century and were followed by Inuit people in the 13th century. The Norse colonies disappeared in the late 15th century. The name Greenland was given by early Scandinavian settlers, specifically Erik the Red who was exiled from Iceland and set out with his extended family in search of rumored land lying to the northwest. Since 1979 Greenland is the autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark and shares same constitution with Denmark.
Natural Resources of Greenland
Greenland today is dependent on fishing and fish exports. The shrimp fishing industry is by far the largest income earner, but there is much more about the Greenland than shrimps, with a good outlook for more activity in metals and oil & gas in a near future. “Several European leaders have been recently engaging in discussions with Greenland’s authorities to open up access to the country’s riches.” Talks are in place towards developing policies regulating uranium mining.
Greenland is second location for Rare Earth Metals discoveries after China (e.g. Kvanefjeld polymetallic deposit), but there is ground for adding shares of nickel, zinc, PGE, gold, iron and diamonds to global reserves through new discoveries. Only 15% of Greenland is ice free with the remaining bulk permanently frozen under the Inland Ice Cap, which reaches 3km in thickness. Therefore, exploration efforts are restricted to the coastal portions of the island. Beyond minerals there are also surrounding waters, Greenland’s oil resources may be able to generate approximately 50 billion barrels of oil. This vast potential resource would benefit the European Union as most of the continent’s currently exploited oil and gas fields belong to Norway, a non-member of the block.
Greenland’s geology is continuos with that of Canada and Northern Europe. It includes Archaean craton (potential for diamonds, gold, REE), palaeoproterozoic mobile belts (potential for base metals, PGE’s, gold and tantalum), Lower Palaeozoic sediments (potential for base metals) and Carboniferous Cretaceous sediments (potential for coal). Greenland also has several Lower Tertiary intrusive complexes, the Skýrgaard intrusion being the most important in terms of gold and PGE. The south-western Greenland is mainly composed of Archean age amalgamated terrains: greenstones, volcanic arcs, TTG (tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite) plutons. The exposed part of the Archean terrain shows mix of Pt-Pd-Ni-Os-Cr-Au associations, coupled with REE deposits occurrences, making it interesting district for targeting, with still a lot of free licenses “to go” as can be see above.
The current number of exploration licenses stands at 73 for 2013, with another 9 being revised. The number covers both minerals and petroleum licenses. 39 companies were exploring on Greenland as of October, 2012, the full list can be found here. Number of licenses and size of area covered by licenses have been on rise since 1998, with four times more land being explored in 2010 in comparison to 2000. In 2000 money spend on exploration on Greenland was 18.8$ Mln and this number went up to 129.37 $ Mln by 2011, this is sevenfold expenditure increase (BMP Greenland, data source), whereas the global trend for those years was a fourfold increase (Metals Economic Group). This demonstrates that Greenland has been interesting spot for both explorers and investors over last 10 years.
Some of the frontiers in Greenland’s exploration are reviewed below.
North American Nickel has projects in Thompson & Raglan belts in Canada and Maniitsoq projest in south-western Greenland. Maniitsoq project covers two licenses of area larger than entire Sudbury mining camp, this includes numerous high-grade nickel – copper sulphide occurrences associated with norite and other mafic-ultramafic intrusions. The project is located 160 km north of Nuuk, the capital of Greenland (a safe, stable, mining-friendly jurisdiction), also to further benefit ports in this part of Greenland have a year-round shipping season. Company has flown VTEM survey in 2012 detecting 50 targets of which 9 have been drilled. The Spoty Hill, hosting historical mineralization and delineated by VTEM survey as one of the targets shows promising values in hole MQ-12-005, which cut mineralized norite.
Highlights from Spotty Hill discovery hole MQ-12-005:
- 123.94 m @ 0.81% Nickel, 0.21% Copper, 0.03% Cobalt & 0.26 g/t Platinum
- Including: 24.20 m @ 1.75% Ni, 0.34% Cu, 0.06% Co & 0.52 g/t Pt+Pd+Au.
- Including: 8.20 m @ 2.39% Ni, 0.21% Cu, 0.07% Co, & 0.60 g/t Pt+Pd+Au.
- The mineralization is primarily hosted by disseminated sulphide with zones of near massive sulphide.
- The mineralization has high Ni tenor averaging 9.0% Ni recalculated to 100% sulphide and is likely to produce clean concentrate.
The whole results, including detailed descriptions of the cores can be accessed at the company website.
Angel Mining has interesting Zn prospect at western edge of central Greenland. Black Angel project used to be an operating mine from 1973 to 1990, located in the fiord the miners were transported to the operation with the cable car. 12 mln tonnes of ore was extracted from the mine at average grades of 12% Zn and 4% Pb. At present Angel Mining works towards restarting the operation, new cable car system is being installed, the mineral processing and waste handling plants are being developed. The phase one of operations aims to mine 2 mln tonnes of ore left in pillars after mine closed in 1990 with the help of experts in pillars mining- Golder Associates. The extraction of pillars is estimated at 5 years, after which the mining activities will shift to near mine discoveries, which have been uncovered by receding glaciers, adding minimum 15 years to miner operations. First production is planned for H2 2013, with annual target of 30,000 tones of Zn and 8,000 tones of Pb.
As part of near mine exploration, massive sulphide mineralization was discovered. The sulphides form a distinct band of mineralization with float of marble clasts. The mineralization measures from 0.2-5 m on the surface and the drilling results demonstrate that mineralization is present to a depth of 100m and still open at depth. All 44 holes applied to the target hit mineralization. Grab samples from the outcrop returned 7% Zn and 2,5% Pb and drilling results confirmed the grades. Mineralization at the surface continues for 850 m and disappears under glacier. “It is the most promising outcrop of massive sulphides found since the original Black Angel discovery and we hope may indicate the presence of a Zinc Province.”, can be read at company website.
The company investigated glacier retreats in the area with use of aerial photography. They estimated that since 1954 glacier retreated by 850 m, of which 250 m happened in the last decade.
Angel Mining also operates Nalunaq Gold mine in Greenland since 2011.
Greenland Minerals and Energy LTD (GMEL’s) is an Australian company with presence on Greenland since 2007 developing they flagship polymetallic project Kvanefjeld (REE + Uranium + Zinc). The project is favorably located in southern Greenland, close to towns, ports and airports. The Kvanefjeld project is underpinned by several large‐scale, bulk‐tonnage resources: Kvanefjeld, Sørensen (Zone 2) and Zone 3. Mineralisation is hosted by lujavrite, with the mineral steenstrupine the dominant host to both uranium and REEs. The highest grades are near surface allowing for open-pit mining operations, but extension of deposit at depth is also indicated.
Kvanefjeld Deposit: Global resource: 619 Mt @ 257ppm U3O8, 1.06% TREO, 0.22% zinc
Sørensen Deposit: Global resource: 242 Mt @ 304 ppm U3O8, 1.1% TREO, 0.26% zinc
Zone 3 Deposit: Global resource: 95 Mt @ 300 ppm U3O8, 1.16% TREO
TREO- Total Rare Earth Oxide
Uranium mining policy & Kvanefjeld project
Uranium mining policy is still under development in Greenland and at the moment activities related to uranium exploration and exploitation are regulated at license level, rather than under the Mining Act. In late 2011 uranium was incorporated into GMEL’s exploration license for Kvanefjeld. This effectively provides the Company (GMEL’s) with the right to apply for exploitation in accordance with Greenland’s broader mining regulatory framework.
“On 21 st November the position of Greenland in regard to uranium policy was addressed in Greenland’s parliament. A show of unanimous support was given from all political parties to fast‐track an independent review to finalise the uranium production and associated issues. Importantly this review includes aspects that relate to Greenland’s foreign policy, which is managed by Denmark. The Danish foreign minister Villy Søvndal was present in Greenland and has indicated that Denmark will support Greenland in pursuing uranium production, but noted that it is Denmark’s responsibility to ensure that international conventions are respected.”
Parliament voting on uranium policy is set to take place after the report by the Greenlandic Directory for Raw Materials on uranium’s effect on the environment and public health is published (spring 2013). If this report does not report any negative issues, there is likely to be a majority in Greenland’s parliament in favor for extracting uranium.