Florian Abraham (ESRC), Current Nuclear Societies PhD Researcher:
Florian’s current doctoral thesis entitled, ‘Uranium Mining in Greenland’ (University of Exeter), focuses on Greenland’s pristine landscapes and the debates around mining its vast mineral deposits. The Kvanefjeld mine, in the south west, is estimated to be one of the largest Rare Earth Elements (REE) deposits in the world and will be exploited by the Australian company GME.
These minerals are used in new technology, such as electric cars, wind turbines or solar panels. Demand has been increasing worldwide, giving the Kvanefjeld mine the potential to generate consequent financial gains for Greenland. However, the rock containing the REEs also contains uranium and thorium, two radioactive commodities. It would be technically impossible to extract the REEs without extracting the radioactive elements too. A national debate on uranium extraction emerged and the consequences of lifting the ban created conflict between its advocates and protest groups.
The debate around the mine emerged due to its potential impacts on the environment and the surrounding population. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and environmental groups have addressed the danger of uranium and thorium extraction, pointing out their radioactivity, but also the waste it will produce. Although advocated as contributing to the green economy, the concerns over the waste suggest that this green economy would be developed through ‘not so green practices’. I will question how the green economy is defined and address this paradox.