Geology and Ore 29, 2018

The rare earth element potential in Greenland

Supply of rare earth elements (REE) is complex. REE deposits are geographically unevenly distributed and the content of individual REEs varies from deposit to deposit; some deposits only containing a few of the REEs in de mand. Greenland is endowed with several large REE deposits, related to various geological settings. Several projects have reached advanced stages of exploration. Additionally, Greenland also holds geological terrains favour able for hosting undiscovered REE deposits, as concluded in a 2010 REE workshop.

Introduction

Demand for REE is growing rapidly due to innovation in the so-called ‘green technologies’, electronic devices, systems and petroleum refining catalysts. The global requirement for REEs in 2015 is estimated at approximately 150,000 t, equivalent to a 40,000 t growth over the decade; a substantial illegal production is not included (Machacek & Kalvig, 2016). In response to this rising global demand, Greenland has experienced a strong international interest over the past decade in search of new REE deposits. The fact that Greenland is endowed with geological environments favourable to hosting REE accumulation makes Greenland attractive to the REE exploration industry.

On this background the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) and the Ministry of Mineral Resources, (MMR), conducted a REE potential workshop in 2010 to provide the REE mineral exploration sector with the scientific background and necessary data to make qualified decisions. This magazine highlights some of the results from this workshop and updated information about REE potential in Greenland.

Since 2007, exploration campaigns targeting REE have been conducted in Greenland, part of a global trend of about 200 exploration projects. Given that the volume of the REE-market is limited and the economic drivers are related to Nd, Dy, Pr, and Sm, a large number of exploration projects, dominated by LREE, have been put on hold. This is the case as well in Greenland, and the active projects are the large tonnage, low grade deposits related to the alkaline intrusions in South Greenland.

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