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Kalaallit Nunaat - Country of the Greenlanders

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

Greenland, the largest island in the world - Australia is considered a continent - and the only territory ever to leave the European Union (Greenland joined the European Community, now the EU, with Denmark in 1973. Greenland dropped its EU membership over tightened fishing quotas in 1985) is located in the North Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the Canadian arctic archipelago. Its maximum length is 2,655 kilometers (km), maximum distance from east to west is 1,290 km and the length of its coast, which is deeply indented with fiords, is estimated at 5,800 km.

Greenland Map

About 84 per cent of Greenland is ice cap that can be up to 3kms thick. Approximately one-twentieth of the world's ice and one-quarter of the earth's surface ice is found in Greenland - the ice-free zone around the ice cap is up to 300 kms wide and covers an area of 410,000 km² (area of Germany is 357,000 km).

Eric the Red discovered Greenland in the 10th century, or as the Inuits called the country back then, Inuit Nunaat - country of human beings. Today the Inuits call Greenland Kalaallit Nunaat - Country of the Greenlanders.

The population of Greenland is 56,648 with 14,719 inhabitants living in the capital Nuuk (formerly Godthab). The majority of Greenland's population live in towns along the fjords in the southwest of the country where the climate is relatively mild. The second largest city is Sisimiut, followed by Ilulissat and Qaqortoq.

Greenland Map

While geologically part of North America, Greenland is, historically and economically, closely tied to Europe. It's a bilingual country, Greenlandic is the main language and Danish is the other with English also widely spoken.

Greenland has had "Self Rule" since June 21, 2009 (including control over minerals and petroleum) - which means that the country has assumed making the political decisions that previously come from Denmark.

The only way to travel directly to Greenland is by air to one of the main gateways: Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strønfjord) in the West or Narsarsuaq in the South, both former American air bases. There are no roads between the towns on the coast so people travel by airplanes, helicopters or by boat - Air Greenland, with ten planes and 600 employees, has just announced regular flights, starting this summer, between Nuuk and Iqaluit.

Greenland Map

Travel by sea is possible throughout the year from Nanortalik, in the South, to Sisimiut in the north west (ports have a year round shipping season), but travel from Sisimiut to sites further north doesn't start till May, at the earliest, because of ice. A report by the World Meteorology Organization (WMO) shows that temperatures in Greenland have risen around 3C above average over the last year.

The WMO also reported that December 2011 was much warmer than usual with rainfall, instead of snow, recorded for the first time in Kuujjuaq.

In 1721, the Danish-Norwegian priest Hans Egede came to spread the gospel in Greenland. Apparently Hans split his time between missionary work and prospecting for mineral resources. This author is not sure of his spiritual success among Greenland's citizens but Hans did report finding graphite twenty years after arriving.

Coal was being mined in the Disko Bay area by German miners in 1780, in 1851-1852 copper was being mined by an English company.

Cryolite was valuable for soda and enamel production and in the 1890s was recognized as crucial for the production of aluminium. Mining in Greenland was dominated by cryolite production at Ivittuut from 1900 on. The Cryolite mine, operated by the Danish Cryolite Company, was abandoned in 1987 after 130 years of mining.

The lead-zinc mine in Mestersvig, in central East Greenland, was operated by the Northern Mining Company from 1953-59.

Greenland Geology

The Black Angel lead-zinc-silver mine, near Uummannaq in West Greenland, is 400 km north of the Arctic Circle and was operated by Cominco Ltd from 1973-86, and from 1986 to 1990 by Boliden AB. The mine was closed with ore reserves of approximately 2Mt remaining - this mine will be reopened.

As mentioned approximately 80% of Greenland is covered by the ice sheet, with the exposed area forming a fringe around the coast. These non ice covered coastal areas - geological terrain that is simply an extension of the *Canadian Shield - expose numerous mineral belts that are highly prospective for gold, nickel, platinum group elements (PGE), copper, lead, zinc, molybdenum, tantalum and niobium, iron ore, several forms of industrial minerals, diamonds, rubies and rare earth elements (REEs).

*Greenland's geology is continuous with that of Canada and Northern Europe. It includes:

  • Archaean cratons - potential for diamonds, gold, REE
  • Palaeoproterozoic mobile belts - potential for base metals, PGE's, gold and tantalum
  • Lower Palaeozoic sediments - potential for base metals
  • Carboniferous Cretaceous sediments - potential for coal
  • Lower Tertiary intrusive complexes, the Skýrgaard intrusion being the most important in terms of gold and PGE potential

Greenland's offshore geology is highly prospective for petroleum. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated, in 2007, that the East Greenland Rift Basins Province could hold over 31 billion barrels of oil, gas and natural gas liquids. The USGS also estimated that the waters off Greenland's west coast could contain more than 110 billion barrels of oil (roughly 42% of Saudi Arabia's reserves).

ExxonMobil, Chevron, Husky, Encana, the UK's Cairn Energy and Denmark's Dong Energy are among the companies that have either already won or applied for exploration licenses from Greenland's Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum for acreage.

The Government of Greenland recognizes the future of the country lies in the development of its mineral resources and public pressure is increasing for better schools, health care and retirement plans. With the Danish government looking to reduce its subsidy of Greenland (approximately half of government revenues comes from grants, about $650 million in 2009) and an economy historically dependant on shrimping, declining fishing (82% of exports), sealing and fish and seal product exports (Europe has banned seal product imports) development of resource projects is now high on the governments list of priorities.

In May 2007 a US aluminum producer concluded a memorandum of understanding with the Greenland Home Rule Government to build an aluminum smelter and a power generation facility in the Maniitsoq area - Greenland has abundant hydropower potential.

Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP)

The BMP is the authoritative body for all administration in relation to the mineral resources industry in Greenland. Licensees only have to apply to one place to obtain all their necessary licenses - the BMP is very much a 'one stop shop' - ensuring efficient administration in the area of mineral resources. The BMP has the regulatory authority to review, evaluate and approve all SIA's, licenses and facilitate public hearing processes.

Mineral Licences in Greenlans

Process of Mineral Applications

The BMP took over from the Danish authorities in 1998. Because of a lack of awareness of Greenland's mineral/petroleum potential the resource extraction industry suffered a general decline in interest. This trend continued to the all time low in 2002.

The BMP designed a resource awareness marketing strategy focused on the two biggest mining countries in the world: Australia and Canada.

From 17 exclusive licenses in 2002 the number grew to more than 70 in 2010, and in April 2011 the number had grown to 94 including current applications.

In the same period the number of non-exclusive prospecting licenses went from six in 2002 to 20 in April 2011.

A list can be downloaded here showing all active licences and current applications.

Drilling Meters

From 2003 to 2010 the Government of Greenland issued four exploitation licenses for mining activities; Angel Mining is producing gold; Black Angel Mining has a mine under construction; QuadraFNX Minnig Ltd. is waiting for higher market prices and one mine is temporarily closed (Minelco). London Mining wants to see the Isua iron ore mine, which hugs Greenland's ice sheet about 150 kms northeast of Nuuk, in operation by 2015.

Country of Origin of exploration companies operating in Greeland, April 2011

Canada experienced a growth in expenditures (exploration expenses and activities) of 35 percent from CAD $1.911 billion in 2006 to CAD $2.624 billion in 2010. Greenland, in the same period, experienced an increase of almost 390 percent from DKK 135 million to a record DKK 524.5 million in 2010.

Australia experienced a growth between of 116 percent from AUD 1.028 billion in 2004 to AUD 2.223 billion in 2009.

Australian and Canadian listed company's represent more than 55 percent of the resource sector companies currently working in Greenland.


Greenland is politically stable, maintains a long lived democracy and tax system, is open to foreign investment, and is mining friendly being eager to attain political independence from Denmark.

But how will Greenland pay for the responsibilities it may eventually take over from the Danish state? The main challenge to securing greater self-government is overcoming the reliance on the annual grant Greenland receives from Denmark and replacing it with revenues generated from within the country. Mineral mining and oil and gas production would ease this dependence. Fortunately Greenland is highly prospective for minerals and is hugely underexplored - the country is a new, and one of the last, frontiers for mineral and petroleum exploration.

"...climate change has already opened new areas for the exploitation of mineral resources as the ice cap is retreating. And in combination with the political and economical control of our mineral resources it will open new opportunities for Greenland to gain more economical and political independence from Denmark." ~ Josef Motzfeldt, MP in Greenland's Home Rule government

Aheadoftheherd.com will be featuring two companies working in Greenland in future articles. The first has a 100% interest in 1,300 sq km being highly prospective for rare earths, diamonds, specialty and base metals. Our second featured company has acquired an exclusive exploration license for 4,841 sq km covering numerous outcrops of nickel-copper sulphide and other metals.

Greenland should be on every resource investors radar screen. Is it on yours?

If not, maybe it should be.


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