Australian news, and some related international items

Australian companies involved in the uranium plunder of Greenland, and danger to sub-arctic environment

The plundering of Greenland,  Uranium and other resources the latest threat to precious sub-arctic ecosystems, Beyond Nuclear International. By Niels Henrik Hooge, 24 Jan 21, The governments of Greenland and Denmark are encouraging large-scale mining in Greenland, including what would be the second-largest open pit uranium mine in the world. Now groups are calling on those governments to halt such desecration and instead establish an Arctic sanctuary. Your organization can sign onto this petition. Read the petition here, then send your organization name (and logo, optional) to either Niels Henrik Hooge at or to Palle Bendsen at:

No or few World Heritage Sites probably have more or bigger mining projects in their vicinity than the Kujataa UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) in Southern Greenland. The property was inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage list in 2017.

It comprises a sub-arctic farming landscape consisting of five components that represent key elements of the Norse Greenlandic and modern Inuit farming cultures.

On one hand they are distinct, on the other they are both pastoral farming cultures located on the climatic edges of viable agriculture, depending on a combination of farming, pastoralism and marine mammal hunting. The landscape constitutes the earliest introduction of farming to the Arctic.

Some of the world’s biggest mining projects are located near Kujataa

Kujaata is situated in Kommune Kujalleq, the southernmost and smallest municipality of Greenland with its rich mineral resources. These include zinc, copper, nickel, gold, diamonds and platinum group metals, but first and foremost substantial deposits of rare earth elements (REEs) and uranium. ……

Some of the biggest REEs mining projects in the world are located only a few kilometres from the Kujataa WHS. The biggest and most controversial is the Kvanefjeld REEs-uranium mining project, owned by the Australian company Greenland Minerals Ltd., GML. According to GML, in addition to containing the second biggest uranium and by far the largest thorium deposits, the Ilimaussaq Complex, of which Kvanefjeld is a part, possesses the second largest deposits of rare earth elements in the world.

The mine, which would be the world’s second largest open pit uranium mine, is located on top of a mountain, almost one kilometre above sea-level, and only six kilometres away from Narsaq, a town of approximately 1,500 inhabitants, and also near some of the parts of the Kujataa WHS.

A second major project close to Kujataa is the Kringlerne REEs mining project, which is described by its owner, the Australian mining company Tanbreez Mining Greenland A/S, as the probably largest deposit of REEs in the world. …………

Calls for enlargement of the Kujataa WHS

Especially in Southern Greenland, there has long existed a notion that the Kujataa World Heritage Site in its present form has been delineated to accommodate the Kvanefjeld mining project and that the potential impacts of the other mining projects surrounding the site have not been considered. ……………

Kujataa’s OUV under threat

It is also clear that Kujaata’s Outstanding Universal Value, i.e. its exceptional cultural and natural significance, will be under threat if the mining projects surrounding the site are implemented. There have already been calls to put Kujaata on the World Heritage Convention’s danger list. Kujataa’s unique farming traditions have been a determining factor in designating it as world heritage.

However, the Danish Risø National Laboratory has estimated that up to a thousand tons of radioactive dust might be released annually from just the Kvanefjeld open pit mine due to material handling, hauling and blasting and from the ore stock and waste rock piles.

Furthermore, if the tailings by some unforeseen cause such as leakages, technical problems, etc. would turn dry, massive amounts of radioactive and toxic dust would be blown away. The dust from the aforementioned sources will be carried by heavy arctic sea winds across the region, where it will affect among others agricultural activities. The predominant wind direction and the direction for the strongest winds are east- and north- eastwards, where the Kujataa WHS is located. The area, its people, domestic animals and wildlife would be chronically exposed to radioactive and other toxic species via drinking water, food and air1.

Furthermore, most if not all the planned mining projects in the area are open pit mines. Perpetual blasting with explosives on the mountain tops in the open pit mines surrounding the world heritage site and the excavation and transport by dump trucks to the mills, where the rocks are crushed, could cause considerable noise disturbance during the entire operation of the mines.

According to the EIA draft reports for the Kvanefjeld project, a dilution factor in the order of 2000 for the waste water would be required to be rendered safe for the most critical parameters. This would mean that the discharges of waste water during just one year would have to be diluted into 7 km3 of seawater in the Fiord system, which is part of the Kujataa World Heritage Site, and into 260 km3 of seawater during the planned operational lifetime of the Kvanefjeld mine.

Furthermore, seepage, leaks and spills of liquids form the tailings will cause contamination of groundwater and rivers by radioactive and non-radioactive toxic chemical species. Seafood would become contaminated as well, due to the substantial discharges of wastes into the Fiords and the coastal sea.

Large-scale mining and particularly uranium mining are incompatible with the development of three of the four sectors of the farming landscape, namely fishing and hunting, tourism and food production. It is relevant to ask how the entire character of the landscape would change in the development from a rural to an industrial area in the wake of both the big mining projects. This also pertains to the question of urban development, when among others new ports, port facilities and accommodation villages have to be built and corresponding support infrastructure implemented.

No real plans to protect Kujataa…………

in its description of the impacts of the nearby mining activities, the management plan relies on a draft of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Kringlerne mining project, which was rejected by Greenland’s Environmental Agency for Mineral Resources Activities (EAMRA), because it did not contain enough relevant information.

EAMRA has also rejected the four latest EIA draft reports on the Kvanefjeld project because of lack of information. Among other things, Kvanefjeld’s owner, GML, is criticised for not providing a comprehensive assessment of the earthquake risk in the region, final results of tests of toxic elements during extraction and processing, final radiological estimates and results of investigations of impacts of radioactive minerals, and for failing to describe the alternatives regarding management of tailings and the shutdown of the tailings facility.

In September 2019, the CEO of GML was also formally reproached by Greenland’s Prime Minister and the Department of Nature and Environment’s Permanent Secretary for lobbying high-ranking civil servants and ministers who had no competence within the EIA review process in order to undermine EAMRA’s authority.

A Heritage Impact Assessment is not enough

…….. it could be argued that there is already enough reason for the Greenlandic and Danish States Parties to involve UNESCO and – considering that environmental issues are at the core of the problems and Kujataa’s management plan is based on rejected EIA draft reports – to include IUCN in the process.

However, the biggest problem for not only Kujataa, but all Greenland’s three world heritage sites could be the fact that Greenland’s environmental legislation does not mandate strategic environmental impact assessments for minerals exploration areas, which means that the public is not kept informed in advance on what areas could be designated. Thus, implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Greenland should have high priority in order to reinforce Greenland’s environmental legislation.

Niels Henrik Hooge is member of NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark’s uranium group.

January 25, 2021 - Posted by | General News

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