EARTHWORKS

Greenland: The Final Frontier

Christine Kiely's avatar
By Christine Kiely

September 28, 2012

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These NASA maps show how, within the space of four days earlier this month, Greenland's vast ice sheet faced degree of melting not seen in three decades of satellite observations as temperatures there rose. (Credit: GOOD)

On an average summer, about half of the ice cover of Greenland thaws at its surface. This July, 97% of the surface ice of Greenland melted.

The first days of autumn are often a time to reflect on the fruits of summer, and these recent events in Greenland require nothing less.

China, which currently controls 90% of the world’s rare earth metals, reported in June that it is serious about acquiring new deposits, and is looking to Greenland.

Greenland’s deposits are expected to account for a quarter of the globe’s future deposits of rare earth metals-- mineral deposits with one or more of the seventeen rare earth elements-- and this would be serious business.

Greenland’s population of 56,000 receives about 65,000 tourists annually and entertains with pristine wild areas and ancient traditions.

This is the country with a tenth of the world’s total reserves of fresh water, the world’s largest national park, and an economy dependent on tourism and fishing. But with the seas warming, towns that have relied on shrimp and seal for generations are disappearing as the fisheries move north to cooler waters.

And with its ice melting and the world’s resources running always lower, Greenland is being looked at as the world’s last frontier for the mining industry. Oil, gas, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, diamonds, rubies, gold, platinum, uranium, and rare earth metals are buried deep beneath ice fields and deposited along the coast.

Developing these deposits may bring about the release of toxic chemicals into some of the world’s largest fresh water reserves. It is absolutely necessary, then, that China, Greenland, and the world’s mining companies are held accountable to responsible mining practices.

Tagged with: rare earths, mining, greenland, climate change

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