President Trump surprise the world this week when he said he was serious about buying Greenland from the Danish government.
The leaders in Denmark and the government of Greenland clarified that the world's largest island is not for sale.
Still, Trump wants to buy the icy ground: How much is Greenland worth? And why is Trump trying to buy it?
Greenland is one of the least populated areas in the planet, with just over 56,000 people living in an area more than three times more than Texas.
It is not a very easy place to call at home – 80% of the island is covered with an ice sheet that could be up to 2 miles thick, and temperatures regularly fall below Fahrenheit 20 degrees dark months of winter.
The relationship between Greenland and Denmark extends thousands of years, and the Kingdom of Denmark became an official part of the 1920s. It was given a town rule in 1979 and is now considered an autonomous area within the Danish kingdom. The Danish government handles foreign affairs and national defense, but the other is governed by the Greenland government – including the management of its mineral deposits.
Geologists have identified large rare earth-clay deposits under the Greenland ice sheet, including one near Narsaq town which could hold up to 11 million metric tons of the minerals. This would make one of the largest rare-earth deposits outside China.
Greenland may have significant offshore oil and gas resources, although these have not yet been developed.
Minik Rosing is a geologist and professor of natural history at the University of Copenhagen, co-author of the 2014 report which examined the mineral resources of Greenland, as well as the associated financial and environmental benefits and challenges. He spoke to the Times about why Trump would be interested in Greenland, its natural resources, and how its value will change as a result of global warming.
Can you describe Greenland to people you don't know?
It is extremely beautiful. Everyone agrees that it is very beautiful. And while it is nearly 3,000 kilometers (about 1,660 miles) north to the south, you have a similar quality everywhere – perhaps because of the way the light shows the ice caps. . The air is very clear, and in many places you can see more than 100 miles away. There are no other trees or structures to interfere with your opinion.
Why do you think Trump would want to buy it?
It could be due to the raw materials on the island and its strategic location. But my question is why would it be necessary to buy it? Greenland and Denmark are closely related to the United States for a long time.
What kind of mineral resources does Greenland have?
Resources identified include zinc, gold, iron ore, uranium and various other metals. The same cohort of minerals would be found in similar places. What is special is the rare earth-rich minerals in the south of Greenland.
Rare hard metals have many applications in electronics, and as a contrast to a medical MR scan. The deposits of Greenland are vast, but also unusual, and require special metallurgy to be processed.
I have seen that Greenland also has coal, but that is not true. There is rarely any coal in Greenland.
Can you estimate the value of these mineral deposits?
It is very difficult to add a price tag or value. You can say, “So many tons of million would bring in so many millions of dollars,” but the problem is that you have spent millions. You cannot talk about the value of a commodity without talking about the cost of it.
Is it difficult to mine in Greenland?
There are many challenges. For example, no two towns are connected to a road. There is also a very small population, so you don't have a large workforce to work with. And because of the climate, the season is for a short exploration – you have only two or three summer months each year.
We know many of these mineral resources for 50 years, but the development is slow for these reasons.
Will it be easier to raise global warming in Greenland?
I feel to some extent. The warming could make transport easier and easier for the mining sites. However, the impact on location and mining would be relatively small.
This big race is there because the ice caps are melting, but the thing you see, while the ice sheet is becoming thinner, the area covered by ice is not going down.
Is there any other financial potential in Greenland that others are not looking at?
There could be. Greenland has a lot of fresh water. It also has great hydroelectric potential, so it could be an energy exporter.
A project I have been running for several years is exporting glacial rock dust – a powder that has created glacial erosion which can be used to re-fertilize exhausted soils. The glaciers increase the rocks in very fine powder, and then the melted water moves out to lakes and fjords where you can find it in large quantities.
It is worth remembering that 90% of the economy of Greenland is based on marine – fishing resources. This is of enormous value to humankind because everyone needs marine protein. As of today, these marine resources remain the most valuable in Greenland. If well managed and strictly controlled, it is also renewable and sustainable, in contrast to mineral resources.
What about offshore oil?
For some time there has been a lot of exploration off the coast of Greenland, but in recent years all licenses have been restored. There may be some potential, but it does not seem to be great, or the economy is not good enough to do more exploration.
There are probably some, but there is currently no technology to achieve it. I think this idea of drilling out of Greenland would have a 50-year time frame, and no-one saw this as very attractive.
If the ice in the Arctic peaks and navigational routes emerges over the North Pole, would Greenland have useful ports?
I think. Greenland is one of the most centrally located commercial locations in the world, but the polar region's ice cover meant that it had no practical value for navigation.
Even a few years ago, it was beyond anyone's imagination that the Arctic ice cover could change so fast. However, the time frame has changed in recent years.
The Danish prime minister said Greenland belongs to Greenland. Does this mean that Trump should offer his offer directly to the Greenland government?
Greenland is a democracy, so if anyone was talking about the sale of the place, it is probably the Greenland government. But I do not think that anything is a law or framework that provides for how the country would sell itself.
The main Kimland Greenland added very concise. He said Greenland is open for business but it's not for sale.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.