The proposed open pit mine in Kvanefjeld in southern Greenland, which is located about 8 km from the village of Narsaq, will in the coming decades crush over 100 million tons of ore to extract Greenland's rich natural resources, most notably uranium and rare-earth metals. According to an environmental report by Danish Radio, the Kvanefjeld mine will have an annual processing capacity of 3 million tons per year, successfully becoming the world's second-largest rare-earth mine and fifth-largest uranium deposit.
The mine is predicted to have a lifespan of about 37 years and hire around 800 employees, at least 325 of whom will be Greenlanders. The mine will run around the clock.
In addition to the open pit mine, there are plans for two processing plants, a new port for shipping raw materials and the uranium, houses for workers, a power plant and storage depots, all of which will clearly breathe new life into Greenland's barren landscape.
The mine's shutdown period is expected to take another six years. After the final closure, the empty mine will be filled with rainwater.
Ironically, the grandiose mining project might end up playing into the hands of independence-seeking politicians, who rest their dreams on industrial projects in order to diversify Greenland's economy and alleviate the island's dependence on a locked Danish subsidy of 3.2 billion DKK (roughly $500mln), which constitutes about half of its budget. At present, Greenland, the world's largest island has a meager population of 55,000 that could fit inside a large football stadium and a lopsided economy that relies heavily on shrimp exports. Besides chronic social ills, such as alcoholism and a high crime rate, potential industrial projects on Greenland are challenged by a notoriously harsh climate and an almost total absence of infrastructure.
Since there is obviously no way of extracting lucrative minerals without generating radioactive waste, the project implies substantial environmental risks and is met with fierce opposition from Greenlandic environmental activists, which may thwart the islanders' dreams of independence.
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