Denmark and Greenland confirm uranium agreements

02 February 2016

The governments of Denmark and Greenland have confirmed the signing of a series of agreements last month setting the framework for future cooperation on foreign, defence and security policy issues related to the mining and commercial export of uranium.

On 19 January, Denmark and Greenland announced they had reached agreements concerning the export control and security of uranium and other radioactive substances from Greenland and the definition of competences in the raw materials sector.

In separate statements yesterday, the governments said that a set of four agreements had been signed specifying responsibilities and tasks between Danish and Greenland authorities in connection with possible future mining and export of uranium.

These consist of a general cooperation agreement on the specific foreign, defence and security policy issues related to the mining and export of uranium from Greenland; a joint declaration on safeguarding nuclear materials; a joint declaration on export control of products and technology that can be used for both civilian and military uses ("dual-use"); and, an agreement on Greenland's safeguarding of nuclear safety in mining.

The Danish ministry of foreign affairs said the government will introduce a bill to parliament on the safeguards of nuclear materials and export controls of dual-use products by mid-2016. Concurrently, legislative proposals will be introduced to the Greenland parliament for consideration.

Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen welcomed the signing of the agreements. He said, "This means that Greenland can now continue its efforts to expand its mining, while we fulfil our international obligations and ensure that Greenland's uranium export lives up to the highest international standards, in terms of the peaceful and civilian use of uranium."

Business and growth minister Troels Lund Poulsen said the signing of the joint declaration on export controls "ensures that we fulfil our international obligations by taking control of exports from Greenland of uranium and other products with possible military use." He added, "Thus we help to create a clear framework for the implementation of mining projects in Greenland."

The island of Greenland introduced a zero-tolerance policy concerning the mining of uranium and other radioactive elements in 1988, while under Danish direct rule. It took a step towards greater autonomy from Denmark in 2009 with the official transition from 'home rule' to 'self rule'. This saw Greenland assume full authority over its mineral and hydrocarbon rights, which had formerly been overseen by Denmark. However, Greenland remains part of the kingdom of Denmark and its defence and foreign policies are still determined by Copenhagen.

In October 2013, Greenland's parliament voted to remove the ban on the extraction of radioactive materials, opening up the possibility for companies to begin mining uranium and rare earth minerals.

Kvanefjeld project

Australia's Greenland Minerals and Energy completed a feasibility study for its Kvanefjeld uranium and rare earth element project in southern Greenland in May 2015. In November, the project received pre-hearing approvals from the government of Greenland and has moved into the permitting phase. The government also approved the terms of reference setting the agreed initial development strategy for Kvanefjeld.

In a 22 January statement Greenland Minerals said, "The agreement announced on 19 January represents another key step in Greenland enhancing its regulatory system to ensure that it is aligned with international standards and best practice associated with uranium and radioactive materials. It follows on from the government of Greenland ratifying its accession to a series of international safety conventions relating to uranium in late 2015."

It added, "This important development highlights the progress made by Greenland's authorities on regulatory aspects, which has taken place in parallel to Greenland Minerals working to establish an agreed development strategy with Greenland, and finalise an exploitation (mining) licence application for Kvanefjeld."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News