Critical Raw Materials: EU Wants to Increase Cooperation With Greenland

by | 15. Mar 2024 - 14:51 | Politics

State visit by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. New office in Greenland to promote sustainable raw material supply chains and transatlantic cooperation.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has traveled to Greenland on Friday. The supply of critical raw materials was one of the most important concerns of her state visit. In order to strengthen cooperation in this area, the EU has opened its first office on the Arctic island. Von der Leyen was accompanied by Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen; Greenland is a self-governing territory of the Kingdom of Denmark and, although not part of the European Union, considered one of the hopes for securing raw materials for the bloc. The island is rich in natural resources, including 25 of the 34 raw materials that the EU categorises as critical and strategic, such as rare earths, writes the British newspaper The Guardian.

Demand for these minerals is growing, primarily due to their use in electric motors and wind turbines; a study by Belgium’s KU Leuven in 2022 showed that Europe’s demand alone could increase up to 26-fold by 2030. There are currently no mines for rare earths on the continent, despite some large deposits, and only a few plants for processing the raw materials.

Sustainable Value Chains: Raw Materials Partnership at Eye Level Planned

Cooperation is therefore crucial, the Guardian quotes Tomas Baert, Special Advisor to the President of the European Commission for Trade and International Partnerships. He emphasized that the EU wants to promote domestic value creation. Greenland needs bilateral cooperation and investment to further develop its mineral sector and diversify its economy, which is currently mainly dependent on fishing, said Naaja H. Nathanielsen, Greenland’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Trade and Raw Materials.

The EU recently signed a partnership with the island for sustainable raw material value chains (we reported), in compliance with environmental, social and governance standards. The importance of this point was demonstrated in 2021 by the opposition to the Kvanefjeld rare earth project, leading to the break-up of the Greenlandic government. Local residents feared the release of radioactive uranium, which can occur as an accompanying mineral in rare earth deposits. The new government set limits for uranium concentrations at the end of 2021, leaving the future of Kvanefjeld uncertain.

However, the Sarfartoq project, still in the development stage, is not affected by this. The rare earth metals mined there could be processed into components for wind turbines or electric cars by the operator Neo Performance in Estonia, where Europe’s most important refinery to date is located.

Photo: iStock/KimKimsenphot

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