January Speaker: Greenland's Mineral Frontier -- Southern Greenland’s Mineral Resources and the Ivittuut Cryolite Mine

by Cindy Schmidtlein, MSDC Vice President

Thomas Hale in the teeming metropolis of Uummannaq, Greenland.

Our speaker for January, Thomas Hale, is well known to MSDC. He last spoke to our group in February 2023, but will be discussing something entirely different at our January meeting – a review of southern Greenland’s mineral resources and the Ivittuut Cryolite Mine.

Thomas' Bio

Thomas is a PhD student at the University of Delaware in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences and an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). His main focus is on the nexus between minerals and society, a concept he promotes through his practice of mineral diplomacy – the use of minerals and materials as a tool for engaging global communities about the importance of mining to achieve shared energy futures.

Thomas maintains both working knowledge of the technical applications and extraction of critical minerals, while also remaining engaged in the policy and defense communities. His interests span the globe with research on Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and recent work on the Arctic Circle (Greenland, Finland, and Sweden).

Thomas is the host of a podcast titled “A Rock & A Hard Place” where he convenes experts to discuss contemporary issues in the mining and defense space. He is also the executive director of Minerals in Context (formerly FMVA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting mineral literacy and engaging communities about the material demands of the energy transition.

Ivittuut Cryolite Mine. Photo by Thomas Hale.

Greenland's Mineral Frontier

Melting ice in Greenland is exposing the country’s critical mineral resources, including rare earth elements, gold, rubies, graphite, fluorescent minerals and more. Extractive companies, governments, and billionaires are all eyeing this largely under exploited resource potential. This presentation will cover three core sections.

First, the presentation provides a review of South Greenland's rich mineral resources and its most famous deposits, including the social, environmental, and political challenges around extraction. Greenland has gained a lot of attention from the international community for its mineral wealth, but there are many challenges facing the country when it comes to achieving a sustainable mining economy.

Second, the presentation will provide a historical overview of the Ivittuut Cryolite Mine (formerly Ivigtut), still considered to be the most famous and only successful long-term mining operation in the country’s history.

Finally, there will be a short update on key policy developments, mining projects, and collecting literature for those interested in the development prospects of Greenland’s extractive sector. This presentation is meant to unveil the potential, challenges, and responsibilities entwined in unlocking Greenland's mineral treasures and ensuring a sustainable future. Photographs and data were collected during five weeks of field travel and ongoing relationships with indigenous communities, government agencies, and Arctic research collaborators as part of a Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) project through the University of Delaware.