12 February 2016

Denmark and Greenland sign new uranium agreement – why now?

Greenland has for many years applied a so-called "zero-tolerance" policy towards exploration and use of uranium and other radioactive minerals.

In the autumn of 2013, Greenland decided to abolish the zero-tolerance policy, opening up the possibility for companies to explore minerals with uranium and radioactive minerals as by-products. The intention is to ensure profitability in projects with such by-products. This has paved the way for exploration licences with e.g. exploration of rare earth minerals with uranium minerals as by-product entering a new phase.

However, the terms of extraction etc. still remain uncertain - e.g. due to political disagreement between Denmark and Greenland. In connection with the transition to 'Self Rule' in 2009, Greenland assumed full authority over its raw materials, while Denmark still decides on matters pertaining to foreign and security policy. The use and export of uranium and other radioactive minerals have prompted a discussion of the definition of authority in Denmark's foreign, defence and security policy in this regard.

Denmark and Greenland have now entered into a new uranium agreement regulating the cooperation on future extraction and export of uranium and radioactive minerals from Greenland. The agreement lays down the framework of the cooperation on the specific foreign, defence and security policy issues relating to extraction and export, including areas of responsibility and distribution of tasks between the authorities in Denmark and Greenland.

In the spring of 2016, a bill will be presented to the Danish parliament and Inatsisartut (the parliament of Greenland) on security control of nuclear material and on export control of products that may be used for both civilian and military purposes ("dual-use").

The bills have recently gone out for consultation.

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