Chinese mining in Greenland one step closer: Ironbark applies for mining license for Citronen Zn project

ASX-listed Ironbark have just applied for an exploitation permit for the Citronen Fjord zinc and lead project in Greenland’s far north, where they have been exploring for several years now. A series of public consultation meetings on the project will take place until next January. China Nonferrous (中色) is expected to become a partner in the financing and construction of the project.

The project is expected to employ a couple hundred people during its construction and exploitation phases. Ironbark documents submitted to the Greenlandic gov’t (and available online) explain that around 80% of these will be foreigners at first, but that they will be later “progressively replaced” with local staff. The mine’s remote location means that foreign staff will be flown in from abroad, meaning it will hardly be seen in Greenlandic towns. Although the main local trade union have aired some worries about immigrant workers and their employment conditions, the scale and location of the project likely mean it won’t create the sort of controversy that once surrounded the Isua iron project.

State-owned integrated miner China Nonferrous, through their main listed arm NFC (中色股份), signed non-binding agreements with Ironbark in 2013 and 2014 that envisage the Chinese SOE’s involvement in financing and building the mine and eventually owning a stake in it.

Nonfezza, also through NFC, are also involved in the Kvanefjeld rare-earth mine in the south of the island, a project that has already started trial production. They’ve also signed a preliminary agreement to build an aluminium smelter in Iceland.

Here’s an overview of Chinese involvement in Greenland mining.

‘historic’ agreement on polar research between Japan and Greenland

A delegation that included the head of Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR, 国立極地研究所) and the country’s ambassador to Denmark was last week in Nuuk to sign a ‘historic‘ agreement on increased cooperation on climate science research, expected to be followed by others in the future.

Besides participating in international initiatives such as the NEEM ice core drilling project in the island’s far north (77°N), Japanese research institutions have also launched their own. An ambitious five-year project on Arctic climate change was launched as part of the Kan administration’s green-focused growth strategy in 2010. Among its research topics are the influence of Arctic climate change on the weather and marine ecosystem in Japan (an issue highlighted by NIPR director Shiraishi in Greenland) as well as forecasting sea ice distribution along Arctic shipping routes. The just-launched Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Project (ArCS), whose scope also includes socio-economic effects of climate change, sounds particularly relevant to Greenland. One of the institutions involved is Hokkaido University, representatives of which were indeed part of last week visit.

Silk Road through the Russian Far East: Chinese to invest in Yakutsk IT park

Meetings with Chinese companies at the East Russia Economic Forum (Восточный экономический форум) in Vladivostok have resulted in agreements to build an IT park in Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia. There have also been further talks on an oil refinery project said to be backed by CNPC.

The Chinese partner is Huaqing Housing Holdings (华清安居控股有限公司), a developer established by research institute of Tsinghua University (‘Huaqing’ is just ‘Tsinghua’ spelt backwards) and backed by SOEs and state financial institutions. As I’ve been describing in a series of posts during the last few months, Huaqing have been one of the Yakutian government’s main interlocutors in talks on potential Chinese investment in the republic, and Zhu Chunyu 朱春雨, the company’s chairman, is a frequent visitor to Yakutsk.

Huaqing has also signed an agreement to cooperate with Almazergienbank Алмазэргиэнбанк, the largest in Yakutia, which has been increasingly partnering with Japanese and Chinese institutions, including China Construction Bank (建设银行).