Citing safety concerns, Greenland Minerals won’t take part in second round of Kuannersuit hearings

The decision comes after government officials sat out similar meetings in February because of a bomb threat.

By Kevin McGwin - August 23, 2021
A cattle farm lies in the Narsaq Valley in southern Greenland close to where Australian-listed company Greenland Minerals wants to build a mine for rare earths, which some residents fear will create pollution and disrupt their way of life, in this undated September 2020 handout photo. (Greenland Minerals Ltd / Handout via Reuters)

A second round of public hearings about the proposed Kuannersuit rare earths and uranium mine getting underway Monday in southern Greenland will take place without the participation of the project’s owner, the Self-Rule Authority has announced.

According to the Self-Rule Authority, the Australian-listed Greenland Minerals said it had made the decision not to take part in the meeting in Narsaq — where the mine would be located — and five other towns and hamlets that would affected by the mine’s activities, after its representatives had been threatened by attendees during a similar round of meetings held this spring.

Earlier meetings precipitated an election that saw a change in government and the establishment of a coalition held together by its opposition to uranium mining. After coming to power in April, the government said it accepted that Greenland Minerals had the right to have the Kuannersuit project (also known as Kvanefjeld) go through the approval process, but it announced that it would seek to prevent it from being approved.

Shortly after it said it would introduce legislation that would reimplement Greenland’s ban on uranium mining.

[Bomb threat, COVID throw Greenland’s Kuannersuit mine approval process into disarray]

Greenland Minerals has labeled the statements an “obvious politicization” of the project that make it impossible for the firm to ensure the safety of its employees during the meetings.

Najaa Nathanielsen, the mining minister, called Greenland Minerals’ concerns unwarranted.

“I fully understand that Greenland Minerals is concerned about the safety of its participants. I fully expect the meetings to take place in a calm and constructive manner and to allow all views and questions to be aired. This is the very purpose of the consultation meetings,” she said in a statement.

While Nathanielsen added that while there were no reported threats to participants, the firm’s presence was not required.

[Greenland officials extend hearing period, add meetings ahead of Kuannersuit mine decision]

During the first round of meetings, Greenland Minerals’ officials participated by video link, but they declined to do so in connection with this week’s meetings.

Nathanielsen and Kalistat Lund, the environment minister, are due to attend in person. The health minister, Kirsten Fencker, is expected to attend remotely.

While the initial meetings were paid for by Greenland Minerals, the new meetings are being paid for by the Self-Rule Authority. Groups opposing the mine said they had trouble seeing point of holding new meetings at taxpayer expense. The meetings, however, are being held after members of Naalakkersuisut themselves chose not to attend the first round of meetings five meetings in February after bomb threats — which later were said to have been made in jest — were made against the meetings.

[Public hearings on a controversial Greenland mine get underway]

Because Greenlandic law requires members of the cabinet to participate in public hearings in connection with potential mining projects to discuss their projected environmental and social impacts, and to field concerns from the public, a new round of meetings had to be scheduled.

“Naalakkersuisut abides by the law, and as the law is right now public hearings that Naalakkersuisut participates in must be held,” she told KNR, a broadcaster.

The public consultation period closes on September 13. After that point, Naalakkersuisut and the national assembly will be responsible for making a final decision about whether to grant Greenland Minerals permission to begin operations.