Greenland, the emerging superpower

A treasure trove of rare minerals may crack China's near monopoly

As the Danish colony moves towards full independence—in January, Greenland will gain full sovereignty over its natural resources—new finds of rare earth metals under the Ilimaussaq Intrusion, a desolate plateau on its southwestern shore, could double the nation’s GDP and shift the balance of power in the global supply of those metals. The “technology” group of lanthanide elements are used in products from mobile phones and low-energy light bulbs to hybrid cars and missile guidance systems and the find has the potential, its Australian developers claim, to severely dent China’s global monopoly over rare earth production. Studies of the site show that the Ilimaussaq reserves would comfortably meet at least 25 per cent of global demand for the next half century. Rare earth metals are so critical to both military and “green” technologies that Japanese authorities are drawing-up plans to create a strategic national reserve. Michael Hutchinson, a director of the London Metal Exchange and the non-executive chairman of Greenland Minerals, said that with the huge increase in global supply and a more transparently priced market for the metals that could result, use would increase. Rare earths could, therefore, undergo the same transformation as aluminum. A century ago aluminum was so valuable that Queen Victoria sported a ring made of it. When supply became cheaper and steadier, it fundamentally altered the way in which aircraft, cars and other technologies were built.

The Times

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