As Greenland’s ice sheet melts, the newly traversable land is swarming with explorers searching for deposits of the new gold—cobalt, copper, lithium, and other minerals needed to power the world’s electric future.
Greenland, the world’s largest island, could hold troves of copper, gold, rare-earth elements, and zinc, according to previous studies done by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland on ice-free land.
Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill Gates are among the investors backing ventures on Greenland’s Disko Island and Nuussuaq Peninsula.
One such is California start-up Kobold Metals, which is “looking for a deposit that will be the first- or second-largest most significant nickel and cobalt deposit in the world,” CEO Kurt House said to CNN.
Kobold and partner Bluejay Mining have fielded a team of 30 geologists, geophysicists, mechanics, and pilots to scour the region using drones and helicopter-borne detectors to capture electromagnetic signatures of subsurface rock layers.
The companies will use artificial intelligence to sift the data and pinpoint the best places to dig.
The government of Greenland “recognizes the country’s potential to diversify the national economy through mineral extraction,” it said in a previous public statement.
Because the warming climate is keeping seas around Greenland ice-free for longer periods, it will be not only possible but also financially practical to ship in heavy equipment for mining and drilling and ship out ores or processed metals.
As more ice melts and exposes more of the island’s surface, “there is no question some of this land may carry the potential for mineral development,” Mike Sfraga, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, said in a CNN interview.
Mineral extraction in Greenland will respect the environment, which is essential to Greenland’s culture and livelihood, he added.
It is ironic, Bluejay CEO Bo Stensgaard told CNN, that Greenland is an early example of the effects of climate change, but may also provide the minerals that make it possible to soften its effects.
TREND FORECAST: Greenland, three times the size of Texas, eventually will contribute key minerals to the “electric revolution” but years, and sometimes decades, are needed to bring a mineral deposit to market.
Greenland has been a global afterthought in the past, but the 56,000 people who live there have shown a readiness to defend the quality of their land, air, and water in the past.
The island’s mineral wealth will be mined but those deposits will not relieve the world’s ongoing chronic shortage of key materials through this decade.