As you may know, the Government of Greenland has prepared a draft Bill to ban uranium prospecting, exploration and exploitation.
The Bill is motivated by a political wish to reintroduce the zero tolerance policy by law.
The Bill introduces an uranium prospecting, exploration and exploitation ban as well as an uranium content threshold in connection to prospecting, exploration and exploitation directed at non-uranium resources:
“Following the Greenland Parliament’s abandonment of its so-called zero tolerance policy in October 2013, it has also been possible, in principle, to obtain a licence for mineral resource activities comprising radioactive elements, including uranium.
For many years and particularly since the abandonment of the zero tolerance policy, uranium has been a subject of much public awareness. It has turned out that there is broad public opposition to uranium related mining projects. This is particularly due to the special risks associated with mining activities involving uranium, including radiation, risk of contamination spread, etc. This public opposition has most recently shown itself in connection with the general election in April 2021 and in opinion polls in connection with this. However, the people of Greenland have also expressed support for continued mining activities as long as they do not involve uranium and the related risks.” [our underlining]
For the mineral industry as a whole, please note the last sentence, expressing support to continued mining activities not involving uranium.
For projects involving uranium, this Bill will have serious consequences.
The Bill provides for that
- uranium prospecting, exploration and exploitation is not permitted.
- the ban does not apply to prospecting, exploration and exploitation directed at non-uranium resources if the average uranium content is less than 100 ppm.
- The Government of Greenland may issue provisions to the effect that the ban also applies to other radioactive elements (including permitted thresholds for other radioactive elements)
- The Government of Greenland may restrict or revoke any mineral resource prospecting, exploration or exploitation licence if exploitation is not possible in accordance with the ban.
- Licences, standard terms, etc. already granted will not be affected by the Bill. An exploration licence comprising uranium will thus survive the adoption of this Bill. As a result of the transitional provision, no new licences comprising uranium can be granted after the effective date of the Bill. This also applies to the grant of exploitation licences in continuation of an existing exploration licence.
Please see the accompanying explanatory notes for more information about the motivation for the Bill, its purpose and content.
To section 3 we may add that no provisions are laid down in the Bill on compensation to licensees for revoked or restricted licences, i.e. the Bill itself does not permit compensation for lost or restricted licences. However, this still leaves the question open, whether a licensee will be entitled to compensation due to expropriation under sec. 73 of the Constitutional Act based on the merits of each case. This involves an assessment of among other things, the purpose and motivation of the measure, whether it hits generally or concretely, the intensity, whether it relates to an existing or future right etc. For example, it is less likely that expropriation entitling to compensation is the case if a measure is addressed to all, or to all within a certain category.
Consultation responses to the Bill must be received by the Ministry of Mineral Resources on or before Monday, 2 August 2021 (send to email@example.com).