Monday May 29, 2017

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Oil & Minerals

An elemental debate

Greenland’s debate over whether to permit uranium mining continues a year after the measure was passed
Oil & Minerals
Still radioactive after all these months (John Rasmussen - Narsaq Foto)

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Greenland’s hotly contested reversal of a national ban on uranium mining last year remains a divisive issue in the country’s on-going general-election campaign.

During a televised debate this week, Siumut, led by acting premier Kim Kielsen, said it continued to support the relaxed mining regulations, and that it would seek to begin negotiations to set a limit on uranium concentrations.

IA, the largest opposition party, says it prefers putting the issue to a referendum.

“We are also in favour of setting a maximum limit, but we feel the people should be asked,” Sara Olsvig, the IA leader said.

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IA has also called for independently organised information campaigns in order to explain to the public the pros and cons of uranium mining.

The party’s position was supported by Partii Naleraq, a protest party founded by Hans Enoksen, a former premier who broke away from Siumut in January.

“When it comes to uranium, people need to be certain about their safety,” Per-Rosing Petersen, a Partii Naleraq candidate, said.

Other candidates, including Nivi Olsen, standing for Demokraterne, warned that politically motivated changes to uranium-mining regulations would undermine investor confidence.

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Greenland has a number of uranium deposits. Should the relaxed regulations remain in place, the first mine to begin extracting uranium will likely be the Kvanefjeld rare-earths mine, in southern Greenland. 

Olsen said that if studies showed that uranium extracted in connection with rare-earth mining proved there was a health risk, then she would support a ban.

“But, if it is safe for people and the environment, then we’re in favour of allowing uranium to be extracted as a by-product of rare-earths activities,” Olsen said.