Baseline-measurements of rare earth metals

The sealed entrance to the mineshaft at Kvanefjeld, where exploratory uranium mining was conducted in 1980. Photo: Ole Geertz-Hansen

In recent years, the Greenlandic society has engaged in an ongoing debate on the issue of rare earth elements. This comes as no surprise as one of the world's largest deposits of rare earth elements has been found in the mountains near Narsaq in South Greenland. These minerals are highly coveted because they are used in a wide range of consumer products, from electric motors to smartphones and computers. Knowledge about the toxicity of the materials is relatively limited, just as there is limited knowledge of its background concentrations in the Greenlandic environment.

The purpose of the present project is to collect existing data and, at the same time, gather new data on concentrations of rare earth elements in the soil, freshwater and saltwater from various areas in Greenland. The data is compiled by reviewing the literature and contacting relevant research institutes to harvest data from their databases. New data is collected by having researchers at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources take soil and water samples during their fieldwork, which is conducted at various sites in Greenland. Based on the results of new and earlier analyses, it is possible to obtain information on levels of concentration and variations in the Greenlandic environment. This data can be used to assess the discharge limits of mining projects and, over the long term, draw up maximum permissible values.

For further information, contact Morten Birch Larsen.

Updated 03.10.2016