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REGIONAL JOURNALISM, GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE.

Oil & Minerals
The Week Ahead

That which is not named

Our focus topics for Jan 25-31: uranium in Greenland, Canada’s violence against women inquiry, a decade at the frontier
Oil & Minerals
Not known for ensuring domestic tranquility

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iAbout Press releases

As part of our continuing efforts to bring you as much information about our region as possible we offer readers a press release service that allows private firms, public agencies, non-governmental organisations and other groups to submit relevant press releases on our website.

All press releases in this section are published in their full length and have not been edited.

If you have a press release or other announcement you would like to have published, please send it to arcticjournal-editor@arcticjournal.com.

We reserve the right to reject press releases we deem irrelevant or inappropriate. 

All material submitted to The Arctic Journal, including pictures and videos, will be assumed to be available for publication by The Arctic Journal and its related entities.

Each Monday, we explain some of the events and issues that we’ll be reading more about during the week ahead. If you have an event you think should be included next week, please contact us.

Regardless of what they may think of the 2009 agreement between Nuuk and Copenhagen expanding Greenland’s powers of self-governance, lawmakers in neither capital can dispute that it grants Greenland full rights to its underground resources.

What has remained unclear all along, however, is what powers, if any, Copenhagen has to limit the export of materials that could be considered of strategic value. The most obvious of these is uranium, which the Danes argue they have the right to have a final say over, given that they retain control of security issues for the entire kingdom, including matters like non-proliferation of nuclear arms.

An agreement between the two capitals, announced last week, appears to put the matter to rest with a compromise. The details of the deal will remain classified until being presented to the national assemblies in both countries, probably this week, but representatives from the two governments have stated that Copenhagen will assume responsibility for ensuring that Greenland’s uranium is fully accounted for once it leaves the country.

SEE RELATED: Don’t take our word for it

In all likelihood, Nuuk, for its part, will need to gather information from firms mining uranium. But, once the material passes its border, in a processed form known as yellow cake (described by one expert as dangerous more for its toxicity rather than radioactivity) it will be Copenhagen that must tell the International Atomic Energy Agency the precise amount that is being transferred and to whom.

Currently, the need for such an agreement is purely hypothetical. A number of sizeable uranium deposits have been identified, but to date only one mining firm, Greenland Minerals and Energy, an Australian outfit, is in the process of seeking approval to mine any of it. And what is more, that mine, at Kvanefjeld (Kuannersuit), in the southern part of the country, would be primarily concerned with mining rare earths, a group of minerals used in most modern electronics.

“The agreement will make sure that if and when a permit, at some point, is granted to mine uranium as a by-product, it can only be used for peaceful purposes,” Randi Vestergaard Evaldsen, Greenland’s commerce minister, told KNR, a broadcaster, on Wednesday.

What has begun to worry some even more than the prospect uranium mining is that when the contents of the agreement are made public it will not name uranium at all. Instead, they fear that it will refer only to ‘dual-use’ minerals, materials that are deemed to pose a potential security risk, even if they have a legitimate civilian use.

SEE RELATED: So close, yet so far apart

This, argues Sara Olsvig, the leader of IA, the largest opposition party and an opponent to uranium mining, would amount to voluntarily rolling back the 2009 agreement, which, she adds, does not differentiate between different types of minerals.

“We earned the right to be able to mine all of our minerals,” Ms Olsvig says. “We don’t believe that it would be worth it to give up that right to be allowed to mine uranium.”

Finding a solution
“This website deals with topics which may cause trauma to readers due to its troubling subject matter.” That is the warning that greets visitors to the website established by the Canadian government for its ‘National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’.

After the previous government initially sought to keep the situation a provincial or law-enforcement matter, the new government, elected in Octotber, said it would take the matter up, and do so only after speaking with the families of victims.

The calls to carry out such an inquiry have gained strength in recent years, particularly after a 2014 report, published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the national police force, concluded that over 1,000 indigenous, métis (or mixed-race) and Inuit women were murdered between 1980 and 2012. The figure was far higher than all previous estimates, and came on the heels of multiple independent reports finding fault with the police for failing to properly investigate suspected murders of indigenous women.

SEE RELATED: Editor’s Briefing | Violence against Canadian aboriginal women

This week, the process of speaking with families, involving 18 meetings that started on December 11 and will not be completed until February 15, will bring Carolyn Bennett, the minister for indigenous and Northern affairs, to Iqaluit.

The January 29 meeting will be Ms Bennett’s only meeting in the Arctic. Like the other gatherings, the Iqaluit session will ask members of the community their opinion about who should conduct the inquiry, how long it should last, who should be called to testify and which issues should be considered.

The goal of the meetings, according to Ms Bennett’s ministry, is to ensure “concrete and achievable recommendations to address and prevent violence against indigenous women and girls”.

Davos of the north
This week, we, like many with an interest in the region, are in Tromsø, where we are attending the 10th edition of the annual Arctic Frontiers conference.

These days, the week-long conference is but one of many such meetings – be they seminars, conferences, symposia or the like – dealing with the region. In its earlier years, however, Arctic Frontiers was truly at the forefront of the trend.

Always a thematic conference, in its ten years, Arctic Frontiers was among the first to take up issues that later became standard fare for discussions relating to the region, starting with climate change, in 2007, and running the gamut from the political to the human aspects of the increasing interest in the region.  

SEE RELATED: The circle continues

Critics have suggested that as new-comers have emerged, Arctic Frontiers has failed to keep pace, or to reognise the role that non-Arctic states and even non-state entities have to play in the region. However, the presence of high-ranking figures from throughout the region attests to the fact that it maintains its status.

This year’s conference will focus on industry and environment, and, according to organisers, will discuss “the balance between resource-utilisation and preservation, and between industrial and environmental interests in the Arctic”.

Many will say they have heard that spiel before. Still others will call it a timeless discussion.

For more about this year’s Arctic Frontiers, we recommend listening to Eye on the Arctic journalist Ellis Quinn’s look at the tenth anniversary conference.

For those on Twitter, the conference will be using the hashtag ‘#arcticfrontiers’. The Arctic Journal be here all week with live-tweets, Facebook postings and daily updates on our website.