(CN) – Facing a critical shortage of raw materials within its own borders, the European Commission announced plans Wednesday to bolster its supplies by exploiting resource-rich Greenland.
“Greenland has an especially strong potential in six of the 14 elements on the EU critical raw materials list developed by the European Commission,” the executive body said in a statement.
The commission developed that list in 2008 as part of its raw minerals strategy. It identified the 14 elements based on several risk factors, including economic importance, rarity, low recycling rate and occurrence in unstable parts of the world.
“Greenland is known for geological settings carrying a high potential for hosting Rare Earth Element deposits (REE), and a number of large deposits are being explored in an advanced stage,” the commission said. “It is considered likely, that Greenland has the ability to become a mid-size supplier in a REE market dominated by larger players.”
The commission estimates that Greenland holds just over 9 percent of the entire world’s REE deposits, a figure based on projections from five current exploration projects.
“Several projects are already in their exploitation phase: gold and silver mine in Nalunaq (the only currently producing mine), lead/zinc mine in Maarmorilik (production to start in 2012), molybdenum mine in Malmbjerg and olivine mine in Fiskefjord,” the commission said. “International interest in Greenland has strongly increased recently as shown by the exponentially growing number of exploration licenses granted by the government of Greenland.”
Of the exploratory projects, several will become exploitation projects in the next one to five years, the commission noted. Three applications for exploitation are expected already in 2012, it said.
Just 15 percent of the companies that exploit Greenland resources are EU-based. Canadian and Australian interests represent 58 percent of Greenland’s mining operations, the commission said.
Greenland vice president Antonio Tajani visited the commission in Brussels on Wednesday and signed a letter of intent for dialogue between Greenland and the EU on the exploitation of natural resources.
“The envisaged co-operation should serve to diversify Greenland’s economy, build stronger EU-Greenland industrial relations, contribute to Greenland’s economic development and secure sustainable supply of raw materials for the EU industry as part of the raw materials diplomacy,” the commission said.
Greenland is part of the kingdom of Denmark, but enjoys an extensive type of self-government because of its geographic remoteness. Its population of nearly 57,000 elected to leave the European Community in 1985, but the country “enjoys a special relationship with the EU,” according to the commission.