Greenland Seeks Advice on Uranium Extraction – by Clemes Bomsdorf (Wall Street Journal – January 10, 2014)

http://online.wsj.com/home-page

Government Has Worked to Lure Developers and Miners, but Small Populace Lacks Experts

COPENHAGEN—Greenland’s leader said Friday the nation is looking to implement the toughest possible rules for exporting uranium, a radioactive material that is a natural byproduct when mining rare-earth minerals.

Greenland Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond, in an interview, said “it is our duty and obligation” to pursue the same conditions as nations considered to be leaders when it comes to security precautions. “We will be following the highest international standards [and are aiming at] Canada and Australia.”

The future of Greenland’s mining sector is one of the more important questions facing Ms. Hammond, elected in 2013. Because Greenland still is under Danish sovereignty, Ms. Hammond has been negotiating with Denmark’s leaders, including Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt —on how to approach the sensitive issue of uranium extraction and export, and an agreement is expected later this year.

To date, relatively little mining activity has taken place in Greenland, even though infrastructure has been built up and the government has worked to lure outside developers and miners. A litany of rules have needed to be sorted out, and Ms. Hammond has focused her initial days on trying to sort through the bureaucracy.

In October, Greenland took a critical step toward becoming an exporter of uranium when the self-rule territory’s parliament voted in favor of a government proposal to allow the exploitation of uranium. The uranium question is heavily discussed because Greenland—due to its small population of 56,000—might have difficulties finding qualified personnel to handle the control of the radioactive material, and because the neither it nor Denmark have much need for it.

Ultimately, Ms. Hammond would like to move Greenland toward independence. But Ms. Hammond’s ambitions face some challenges because one of the political parties in her ruling coalition recently was excused from the coalition because it wouldn’t support the uranium policy. Ms. Hammond said Friday she wants to sit for her whole four-year term even though her government is weakened and she has faced additional questions about her leadership.

“Meeting a lot of criticism is part of the job and it is important that I keep my focus on the results I’m working on,” she said.

Ms. Hammond said government representatives will soon travel to Australia to look at how that country is controlling the export of uranium.

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