COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Greenland’s parliament has agreed to remove a 25-year-old ban on uranium mining, paving the way for an industrial boom that the Arctic island hopes will help it gain independence from former colonial master Denmark.
Greenland, a semi-autonomous part of Denmark, wants to step up its mining of rare earths, valuable elements used in the production of smartphones, weapons systems and other modern technologies. But uranium is often found mixed into rare earths, so the ban was blocking key mining activity.
Cameco (TSX:CCO), one of the world’s largest uranium producers, welcomed the decision, adding that it would be open to setting up projects in Greenland.
“We are pleased to see that Greenland has opened the door to safe and responsible uranium mining,” said Rob Gereghty, a spokesman for the Saskatoon-based company.
“Currently, we are focusing our exploration efforts in Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan and the United States. As we look forward, the removal of this barrier will allow us to consider Greenland for potential uranium exploration projects.”
Experts estimate that a mine in southern Greenland could contain the largest rare-earth metals deposit outside of China, which currently accounts for more than 90 per cent of global production. An Australian company has estimated it could extract up to 40,000 tons of rare earth metals per year.
In a 15-14 vote with two absentees, the parliament Greenland parliament backed late Thursday the centre-left governing coalition’s desire to remove the ban. The government also gave a British company a license to extract iron.
The company, London Mining, is now seeking investments to develop a mine northeast of Nuuk, the capital, and is expected to bring in foreign workers, possibly from China.
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