Great potential for critical raw materials in Greenland

Published 23-06-2023

The Center for Minerals and Materials (MiMa) at GEUS has just published a report which assesses the potential for critical raw materials in Greenland. The report points out that the potential is significant for a large number of critical raw materials, but there is a need for further geological mapping and data collection.

The Skaergaard intrusion, East Greenland, a mineral deposit rich in critical raw materials of the platinum group metals, titanium, vanadium and gallium. Photo: GEUS.

In March 2023, the European Commission published an updated list of critical raw materials, i.e. raw materials that are of great economic importance and whose supply risk is great. At the same time, many of these raw materials are crucial for the green transition, digitisation and other strategic technologies, among other things, and even if some of the future need for critical raw materials can be met via recycling – so-called secondary resources – there is still only a limited amount of them. Therefore, increased mining will continue to be the primary way to meet future demand.

Because of this, the Center for Minerals and Materials (MiMa) at GEUS has just published a report, which examines the potential for critical raw materials in Greenland, maps the known mineral deposits and identifies areas where critical raw materials can potentially be extracted. The report has been prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of Mineral Resources (MMR) under Greenland’s Self-Government and is based on an earlier study from 2016 – but it is significantly revised and furthermore updated according to the European Commission’s new list of critical raw materials.

Many critical raw materials from the EU’s list can potentially be found in Greenland

The ice-free part of Greenland, which covers an area of 400,000 km2, has a very varied geology, which represents almost 4 billion years of geological history. Greenland’s great variation in geological environments has created favourable conditions for the formation of ore deposits, including many of the critical raw materials.

The report also assesses a few other raw materials such as molybdenum, chromium, tin and zirconium, which have a relatively high supply risk and are close to being critical according to the European Commission’s assessment criteria. The report contains an assessment of 38 raw materials in total, the vast majority of which are assessed to have moderate to high raw material potential in Greenland.

“The report shows that Greenland has a large untapped potential for critical raw materials – including the rare earth metals graphite, niobium, platinum group metals, molybdenum, tantalum and titanium, all of which already are or will become important for the green transition. Furthermore, the report shows that Greenland has a long and varied geological development comparable to countries such as Canada and Australia, where there is extensive mining. But in contrast to these countries, mining in Greenland has only been concentrated in a few places and has been of a modest scale,” says Jakob Kløve Keiding, Head of MiMa and co-author of the new report.

Need for further mapping and data collection

Although large parts of Greenland are assessed to have the potential to contain deposits of critical raw materials, Greenland is still relatively sparsely mapped compared to many other countries. This is partly due to Greenland’s often difficult terrain and harsh climate. Therefore, there is a need to increase the geological knowledge of the resource potential in order to attract exploration companies.

“In the report, we show that a significant raw material potential has already been identified, with several world-class deposits, and at the same time the study points out that the ice-free part of Greenland has the potential for several large mineral deposits of critical raw materials. But the knowledge base for many of the critical raw material resources is limited, and even the identified mineral deposits are often poorly studied, and the resource estimates are not well quantified by modern standards. Therefore, we need better mapping and more knowledge in order to be able to target efforts and better qualify the mineral potential,” says Diogo Rosa, Senior Researcher in Economic Geology at GEUS and first author of the report.

Jakob Kløve Keiding
Chief Consultant
Mapping and Mineral Resources