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Thin Ice: Melting Greenland Might Be Set for a Mining Boom

The vast island is nearly pristine, but not for long.

These NASA maps show how, within the space of four days earlier this month, Greenland's vast ice sheet faced degree of melting not seen in three decades of satellite observations as temperatures there rose. The image at left shows the ice sheet on July 8, with a large part of it experiencing no melting in summer, as is typical. By July 12, the surface of virtually the entire ice sheet was melting, a phenomenon not seen in three decades of satellite imaging. (NASA)

Last week we had big climate change news out of Greenland (well, sort of) with a NASA report that shows that the entire ice sheet that covers the vast majority of the country dramatically melted in mid July. On the heels of the news that an iceberg twice the size of the island of Manhattan had calved from Greenland as well, the doomsday talk was reaching fever pitch.

Well, now the miners are making their move and there may really be cause for concern. International mining companies have taken note of that thinning ice and have been begun salivating over potential access to never before tapped resources. Geologists believe that beneath that ever-thinning ice is a bounty of valuable minerals and aside from a single gold mine, Greenland's minerals have remained out of reach thus far.

Greenland has very little experience regulating mineral extraction on the scale of what's being proposed. The risks? Contaminated water, the impact of toxic mining chemicals, and spread of radioactive uranium dust, to name a few. The risks outweigh the benefits says a government official:

The government would like to have another source of income – currently there is just fishing, and a little from tourism, so this is a big opportunity for us. These explorations can be done sensitively, we believe.


Sensitive mining. Perhaps Greenland has mining innovations up its sleeve?

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