The possibility of building up an energy-intensive industry in Greenland is being discussed. The country has great potential for production of renewable energy by means of hydropower and holds rich, unexploited mineral resources, which can be made efficient use of through the establishment of new industry.
Establishment of an Aluminium Smelter
The aluminium project by Maniitsoq is an example of the possibilities associated with Greenland’s hydropower potentials. While aluminium production in itself is an energy-intensive process, the use of hydropower can help reduce the negative effect on climate and the environment. Compared with energy production based on fossil fuels, the aluminium project by Maniitsoq will have significantly lower CO2 emissions and will constitute an efficient way of making use of the country’s water resources.
Despite being based on a renewable source of energy, the establishment of aluminium production in Greenland will imply a marked increase in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Still, emissions from the production will be much lower compared with if it had been based on fossil fuels. Hence, in a global perspective, the establishment of an aluminium industry in Greenland can be of net benefit to the level of greenhouse gas emissions.
Possibilities for Resource Extraction – The Iron Ore Mine by Isukasia
The Greenlandic subsoil is rich in mineral resources. The map below, developed by The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) in collaboration with the Greenlandic Government, provides an overview of mapped mineral resources:
At the moment, exploration and exploitation licenses have been issued to a number of projects. Mineral extraction will be associated with large emissions and will contribute to increasing Greenland’s national emissions in those cases where proposed projects are realised.
As part of its application for an exploitation license, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) have been developed for the Isukasia iron ore project in South West Greenland. The two assessments are mandatory and provide thorough reviews of how the proposed project is expected to impact environment and society in the region. Of particular relevance in terms of climate, the EIA includes an assessment of the project’s total greenhouse gas emissions, an overview of the advantages and disadvantages associated with different choices of energy source and a comparison of the implications of a number of scenarios for realisation of the project. If the iron ore mine is established with diesel-based energy supply as proposed, it will increase Greenland’s total emissions considerably.
For every project that Naalakkersuisut, the Greenlandic Government, decides to grant an exploitation license to, an Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) also has to be signed by the company, the local municipality and Naalakkersuisut. An IBA is intended to secure that the project has a beneficial effect on the local community and society overall. IBAs are adjusted on an annual basis to ensure that they remain up to date at any time.
1 Mineral occurrence map and main geological units in Greenland. Further geological description can be found in the GEUS Bulletin 18 (2009) - Greenland from Archaean to Quaternary. The Bulletin includes the geological map of Greenland 1:2,500,000. ON the website of GEUS, the Bulletin can be downloaded and the geological map can be seen interactive in different scales.