What’s China Doing in Greenland?

From Christian Science Monitor

By Will Rogers

Western policymakers are becoming increasingly anxious about China’s foothold into Greenland, particularly its desire to produce the semi-autonomous island’s rare earth metals – the materials used in high-end electronics, from smart phones and smart bombs to clean energy technologies, including wind turbines and advanced batteries. But policymakers can rest assured that there is more to China’s foray into Greenland than meets the eye – and not as much cause for concern.

A Thawing Frontier

Greenland’s icy frontier is transforming before our eyes. Climate change is contributing to a hastened retreat of the island’s massive ice sheet and ushering in new opportunities for the 57,000 people living in the northern hinterlands.

The island’s extractive industries are poised to be the biggest winner, as the thawed ice reveals new deposits of raw materials, everything from iron ore to aluminum. (Read More: Rocking the Boat in the Energy Rich South China Sea)

Rare earths are the big prize. The small town of Narsaq sits near one of the world’s largest deposits of rare earths. According to Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd, one of the island’s leading mineral development companies, that deposit could contain about 10.3 million metric tons of rare earth metals, equivalent to about 10 percent of the known global reserves (which today total about 110 million metric tons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey).

China is making a play for those resources, apparently, courting the government with infrastructure projects and other investments that are intended largely to help Chinese companies acquire the production rights to mineral deposits, including rare earths.

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