Melting ice-caps opens Arctic to new gold rush | business | Hindustan Times
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Melting ice-caps opens Arctic to new gold rush

business Updated: Jul 05, 2011 20:57 IST
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The crumpled figure in seat 22 on the Air Greenland flight from Ilulissat to Kangerlussuaq was no Indiana Jones. But Dennis Thomas, a mining engineer viewing gold and diamond prospects in the Arctic, was happy to play up the part.

"I've been shot at and involved in all sorts of other scrapes," said the 62-year-old.

Thomas had spent 30 years scouring Latin America, the Far East and most other points around the globe, but this was his first time in Greenland.

"There is only one working mine but in 10 years I would like to see them with half a dozen serious mines," he said.

Major companies have recently set foot in Greenland hoping to carve out -literally - a new mineral frontier. Political visits from countries such as China are also on the rise. They are being driven by the demand for a variety of precious stones and other commodities, which has driven up prices and sent prospectors on a frantic search for new supplies.

Greenland has long been known to harbour everything from uranium - needed for nuclear plants - to so-called rare earth minerals used in hardware such as mobile phones, flatscreen TVs and modern weaponry.

The Arctic was largely off-limits because much of the land was considered unworkable, buried under hundreds of metres of snow and ice, and with nothing in the way of traditional infrastructure.

Global warming has changed that picture.

While Greenland's traditional way of hunting wild animals is endangered by the melting ice cap, mineral mining is entering a new, potentially lucrative chapter.

More and more of the land is becoming ice-free - unleashing greenhouse gases in the process but offering new opportunities for diggers in the "white gold rush".

New mining applications are being submitted for extraction, from Canada through Greenland to Finland.

The Greenland government in Nuuk has underlined its commitment to new ventures by repealing a law that prevented any kind of uranium mining.

The laws have been amended to grant exploration licences for radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium on a case-by-case basis.

You could say global warming is good for Greenland.