Why Exploration in Greenland?
Greenland has favourable geology and nearly the whole history of the Earth’s evolution is represented, which presents a lot of opportunities for a variety of mineral prospects. Greenland has the same geological framework that characterises major mining nations such as South Africa, Australia and Canada.
Although Greenland has a large ice cap, there is still more than 400,000 km2 to explore. Greenland has a pro-mining government and population. Greenland has private land and therefore no first nations land rights issues. The climate is ocean-moderated arctic climate with deep-water fjord access to most of the ice-free land areas.
In the long term, Greenland may become a player particularly for iron alloys (iron, nickel, molybdenum, titanium, vanadium) and base metals (copper, zinc). The overall viability is controlled by demand, and production concentration and subsequent global vulnerability to political and socio-economic changes and conflicts. In the meantime, Greenland already has the ability to enter – and potentially change – the market for critical minerals.
Overall, Greenland is supportive of developing mining and has lifted the zero-tolerance ban on mining ore containing uranium or thorium, which in turn has expanded the possibilities to exploit deposits containing critical minerals in the country. The REEs, niobium and tantalum almost exclusively occur in connection with uranium or thorium, which means that Greenland now has the potential to become a major producer not only of REEs, but also other critical metals.
Exploration is distributed among several large projects which all have strong potential. The license list and map can be seen at Current Licenses.
Advanced exploration projects
Kvanefjeld/Kuannersuit REE and Uranium
The Kvanefjeld/Kuannersuit deposit is one of the world’s largest undeveloped resources of both rare earth elements and uranium, held under an exploration license by Australian-based Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd. It forms the northern half of the same Mesoproterozoic Ilimaussaq alkaline intrusive complex that also contains the Kringlerne/Killavaat Alannguat deposit.
The deposit was discovered in the 1960s and was acquired under an exploration license by Greenland Minerals and Energy in 2007. The Kvanefjeld deposit and two other resources - Sørensen and Zone 3 – are hosted by the Ilimaussaq alkaline layered igneous complex. The Kvanefjeld deposit is hosted in the uppermost sections of the layered complex in a rock called lujavrite, which is strongly enriched in rare earth elements, uranium and zinc. The thickness of the mineralized sections can exceed 250 m in dome-like structural culminations, persistent over several square kilometres. Mineralized lujavrite sections occur mainly in the northern half of the Ilimaussaq complex.
On February 12, 2015 Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd announced an updated mineral resource estimate for the Kvanefjeld project, based on increased density of geochemical data from an assay program on historically drilled cores. The new JORC 2012 combined estimate in the table below, combined with the resource estimates for the Sørensen and Zone 3 projects, brings the resource estimate for all three deposits to 1.01 billion tonnes containing 593 million pounds U3O8 and 11.13 million tonnes Total Rare Earth Oxides. The resource estimates have been carried out by SRK Consulting. Ongoing drilling is aimed at establishing a further initial resources estimate of the Steenstrupfjeld area, immediately east of Kvanefjeld.
Updated mineral resource estimate for Kvanefjeld
Inferred resource (JORC 2012) 673 million tonnes
U3O8 248 ppm
Total Rare Earth Oxide 1.2%
Inferred resource (‘measured’) 143 million tonnes
U3O8 303 ppm
Total Rare Earth Oxide 1.2%
including 54 million tonnes at:
U3O8 403 ppm
Total Rare Earth Oxide 1.4%
A feasibility study for the Kvanefjeld deposit will be completed in 2015 and will be the basis for establishing an initial mine reserve. Greenland Minerals and Energy is working with partner Non Ferrous China on design, capability, financing and rare earth technology to develop the Kvanefjeld Project. Further information can be found at www.ggg.gl.
Citronen Fjord Zinc - Lead
The world class Zn Citronen Base Metal Project in northeast Greenland is one of the world’s largest undeveloped zinc-lead resources and is held under a current exploration license by the Australian based Ironbark Zinc Ltd, who has 100% ownership of the project.
The Citronen Fjord Zinc deposit lies within the Paleozoic Franklinian Basin, which extends right across North Greenland and into Arctic Canada. The deposit lies within the Ordovician deep water argillaceous rocks, interbedded with carbonate debris flows sourced from a shallow marine carbonate sequence to the south. It is situated between two major early Paleozoic or older faults, which are thought to have controlled localization of massive sulfide mineralization. Syn-depositional sedimentary exhalative (SEDEX) mineralization (also called CD deposit (Clastic Dominated)) is thought to have occurred within an extensional sinistral strike-slip basin, with ore formed by precipitation of sulfides from metal-bearing fluids onto the sea-floor. Mineralization occurs at three main stratigraphic levels and is generally planar and tabular and undeformed. The main sulfide minerals present in the deposit are pyrite, sphalerite and galena.
The Citronen Fjord deposit was discovered by Platinova A/S in 1993 from outcropping zinc-lead gossans. Ironbark has drilled over 67,000 m of diamond drill holes since exploration began in 1993. 73% of the 315 drill holes intersected mineralization of more than 2.0 m at 3.5% zinc. The current JORC 2012 compliant resource for the Citronen Project is 70.8 million tonnes at 5.7% Zn + Pb at a cutoff of 3.5% Zn, including a higher grade resource of 29.9 million tonnes at 7.1% Zn + Pb at a cutoff of 5.0% Zn. The Pb content averages 1 %. The deposit has economically mineralization along a strike length of 11 km, with the current resource occurring over 6.5 km strike length. The deposit is open in almost all directions. More information on the Citronen Base Metal Project can be found at www.ironbark.gl.
Continued drawdown of the global zinc stockpiles over recent years has led market analysts to predict a supply deficit, which is expected to increase following closure of the Century (Australia) and Lisheen (Ireland) mines in 2015. This is expected to lead to an increase in the zinc metal price. Ironbark is continuing to work toward investment of 500 million dollars, backed by shareholders Nyrstar and Glencore and finance from China Non Ferrous. Ironbark will submit an exploitation license application in 2015.
Maniitsoq Nickel Belt (Maniitsoq Norite Belt)
The Maniitsoq nickel-copper-cobalt-PGE project, on the southwest coast of Greenland, is hosted in recrystallized noritic intrusions within highly deformed and metamorphosed Archean gneisses. The Maniitsoq Norite Belt is held under a current exploration license by the Canadian based North American Nickel. The Maniitsoq Norite Belt intrusions are concentrated in a 15 km wide by 75 km long belt known as the Maniitsoq Norite Belt. The intrusions range in size from small dykes and plugs to elongate bodies covering up to eight square km. The norite intrusions contain xenoliths of brecciated orthogneiss and fluidised microbreccia. This and other evidence has been interpreted as indicating that the norite intrusions postdate a giant bolide impact event 3 billion years ago (see Garde et al., 2012). The resulting Maniitsoq Structure is a c. 100 km wide, approximately circular structure that is in part defined by the distribution of norite bodies. The norites are believed to represent open ended magma conduits in response to mantle melting associated with the impact. The ultramafic magmas are thought to have flowed toward the surface through restricted conduits and larger magma chambers. Where these assimilated locally sulfidic country rock, this resulted in sulfur saturation and production of a sulfide liquid that collected in low-velocity zones in the conduit system. Sulfide mineralization consists of pyrrhotite, pentlandite, chalcopyrite and pyrite.
Nickel mineralization in the area has been known since the 1960s. Since then geological mapping, prospecting, shallow diamond drilling and EM surveys have been carried out, resulting in recognition of a belt of nickel-copper-bearing norite intrusions - the Maniitsoq Norite Belt.
North American Nickel (NAN) was granted an exploration license for the project in August 2011, currently over c. 2,900 square kilometres. NAN has flown over 6,700 line kilometres of helicopter-borne SkyTEM/VTEM surveys at a line spacing of 100 to 200 m, covering approximately 890 square kilometres. From this they identified 262 conductive zones, from which selected EM conductors were targeted for drilling. To date NAN have drilled over 22,000 m from 95 drill holes. From this they have intersected nickel, copper, cobalt and PGE mineralization at Spotty Hill, Imiak Hill, Mikissoq (previously Imiak North), Fossilik and Fossilik II, including semi-massive to massive sulfides. This led to the recognition of the Imiak Hill Complex, which includes Imiak Hill, Mikissoq and Spotty Hill, all within 1.6 km of each other. In 2014 NAN also carried out ground gravity and deep time domain electromagnetic surveys and drilling resulted in recognition of norite-hosted nickel-sulfide mineralisation in eight regional targets. The company plans further work to determine the extent of mylonitic fault offsets of sulfide zones in the Imiak Hill Complex.
More information can be found at www.northamericannickel.com/projects/greenland/maniitsoq.
Iron and ferro-alloys: iron, nickel, titanium, chromium, molybdenum, tungsten and vanadium
Banded iron formation (BIF), which is the main source of iron worldwide, is known from Archaean basement settings in most parts of West Greenland. The most well-known and most thoroughly investigated deposit is the Isukasia (Isua) iron deposit, which is located 150 km north-east of the capital Nuuk. However, numerous BIF occurrences are also known from the Baffin Bay region in North-West Greenland, which also has been delineated as an iron province. These occurrences are likely to be temporally related to occurrences also found in Canada on Baffin Island, of which the Mary River iron-ore project is the most prominent.
The Isortoq iron-titanium- vanadium occurrence in South Greenland constitutes another type of mineralisation as it is hosted in a mineralized troctolite dyke. Nickel occurrences are known from numerous places in Greenland; the most pronounced are the nickel occurrences within the Maniitsoq Nickel Province (Norite Belt) in southern West Greenland, the Ikertoq occurrence south of Sisimiut in central West Greenland and the Tasiilaq occurrence in South-East Greenland. All may represent conduit-type nickel mineralisation. Other areas with indication of occurrences of similar types are present in South Greenland and central East Greenland.
Nickel mineralisation associated with flood-basalt activity is known from the Palaeogene West Greenland Basalt province on the island of Disko and may be analogous to Norilsk type mineralisation. Other areas with voluminous flood-basalts are present in the Palaeogene East Greenland Basalt Province and in the Mesoproterozoic Zig- Zag Dal Basalt formation, eastern North Greenland. These may also pose a potential for accumulations of nickel although no occurrences have yet been discovered.
Molybdenum is known from the Palaeogene Climax-type porphyry deposit at Malmbjerg, central East Greenland. Similar style mineralisation may be present at the Flammefjeld occurrence further to the south.
Greenland comprises geological environments that are highly prosperous for tungsten mineralising processes. Historically, limited exploration activities have been carried out in Greenland and a limited amount of data and information is available. The best know tungsten deposits are found on Ymer Ø in Central East Greenland.
Chromium, vanadium and titanium occurrences are known from the Fiskenæsset gabbro-anorthosite complex (Sinarsuk) in southern West Greenland. Other gabbro-anorthosite complexes in southern West Greenland, as well as in the Thule area in North-West Greenland, may also hold a potential for ferro-alloys. More information about iron and ferroalloys in Greenland can be found in Geology and Ore nos. 6, 8, 14, 17, 19, 24, 25 and at www.greenmin.gl.
Base metals: zinc, copper and lead
Several sedimentary basins in Greenland are well-known for their zinc deposits and potential. The best known is the Palaeoproterozoic Karrat Group in northern West Greenland, which hosts MVT mineralization including the former Black Angel zinc-lead mine, and the Phanerozoic Franklinian Basin in North Greenland, which hosts both MVT and SEDEX zinc-lead deposits of which the most well investigated is the Citronen Fjord deposit. Also sedimentary successions in East Greenland are well-known to contain zinc deposits, in this case also sedimentary copper mineralisation, e.g. in the form of sedimentary-hosted reduced-facies (Kupfershiefer) type, is known from Triassic and Permian rocks of the Upper Palaeozoic– Mesozoic Jameson Land basin. Another type of zinc-lead mineralisation, also found within this basin and which includes the former Blyklippen lead-zinc mine, occurs within quartz veins hosted by Permian sandstone in the Mestersvig area. More information about base metals in Greenland can be found in Geology and Ore nos. 2, 5, 18, 21 and at www.greenmin.gl.
Precious metals: gold and platinum-group elements
The Palaeoproterozoic Ketilidian mobile belt in South Greenland is a well-established gold province that hosts orogenic gold as the main mineralizing style. The Nalunaq Gold Mine, within the Nanortalik Gold Province, is the only occurrence found viable for mining, but several other gold occurrences are known throughout South Greenland. The total production of gold of the Nalunaq mining life was 10.66 t of gold (342,841 oz gold).
The Vagar gold prospect covers ground belonging to the Nanortalik Gold Province and is situated in the southwestern part of Greenland close to the towns of Qaqortoq and Nanortalik. Subduction related plate tectonic processes took place from 1850 to 1725 Ma. Based on surface sampling at the Vagar gold prospect in South Greenland during 2010, gold anomalies were recognised that at several localities. Also placer gold-tungsten prospects within the Qoorormiut and Niaqornaarsuk rivers and deltas are known. The best known gold mineralization is located at Amphibolite Ridge. In a September 18, 2013 press release Nunaminerals reported the results of four channel sample profiles across a gold mineralised structure, which all intersected high grade gold mineralisation including some exceptional intervals, yielding up to 13 metres @ 70.1 g/t gold (with visible gold identified in several of the samples). Rock grab samples from the same structure have returned up to 2533 g/t gold, which constitute the highest grade ever to be reported from the Vagar area.
The North Atlantic Craton in southern West Greenland constitutes another region, in which several areas may pose a potential for gold. The most investigated occurrence within these settings is the Storø gold prospect, north-east of Nuuk. The Storø gold project (691 km2) is located to the north on the island of Storø in the Nuuk Fjord, about 40 km north-east of Nuuk. NunaMinerals has conducted extensive exploration on Storø since 2003, including diamond drilling, which comprises a number of gold prospects within a 15 km2 area between the two distinctive mountain ranges Qingaaq and Aappalaartoq.
The greenstone belt at Qussuk, which is part area of the Storø licence, has been identified as a potential option for economical gold mineralisation. Reconnaissance was carried out in 2005 and 2006, a more focused effort in 2007 with the collection of geophysical data and systematic collection of surface samples. The results in the field in 2008 and 2009, and its work included drilling and other exploration activities. The preliminary outcome of the analysed surface samples shows that there is up to 2.9 g/t gold in the northern area of Qussuk. Core analyses have so far shown up to 14.5 g/t gold with disseminated gold.
On the east coast of Greenland, gold and PGE-bearing reefs within the mafic layered Palaeogene Skaergaard Intrusion present another mineralisation style. Other Palaeogene intrusions may also have potential for precious metals. In the same region as the Skaergaard intrusion, orogenic gold occurrences have been described from the Archaean basement. Since 2007, the Australian exploration company Platina Resources Limited has been a license holder of the deposit at Skaergaard, north of the Fjord Kangerlussuaq in East Greenland. The exploration is mainly directed at gold, palladium, platinum, vanadium and titanium.
The Skaergaard project has been explored by many different companies over the last three decades and is still subject to surveys, partly due to the large precious metal resources of palladium, gold and platinum, but also because the deposit contains a large potential for titanium and vanadium. Titanium and vanadium is not profitable in itself in this deposit, but contributes to the economic value of exploitation of the deposit as a whole.
Similarly, but not as well-investigated, gold occurrences or indications are known from the north-eastern part of Disko Bugt, central West Greenland and from central East and North-East Greenland. More information about precious metals in Greenland can be found in Geology and Ore nos. 1, 8, 9, 11, 14, 26 and at www.greenmin.gl.
Specialty metals: REE, niobium, tantalum, uranium and zirconium
The Gardar Province in South Greenland has long been recognized for its strong endowment in specialty metals. REE occurrences are especially well-investigated from the Kvanefjeld (Kuannersuit) and Kringlerne (Killavaat Alannguat) deposit within the Ilímaussaq intrusive complex; with the former also containing uranium and zinc and the latter also containing zirconium, REE, tantalum and niobium. Also the Motzfeldt Sø intrusion contains a large deposit of niobium and tantalum together with REE. Other intrusive rocks of the Gardar Province may hold potential for occurrences of specialty metals.
Further north, within the North Atlantic Craton, carbonatite intrusions at Qeqertaasaq and Sarfartoq contain other REE occurrences as well as occurrences of tantalum, niobium and uranium. Other carbonatites in southern West Greenland such as the Tikiussaq and the Grønnedal-Íka carbonatites may pose a potential for other specialty metal accumulations. Other known REE occurrences are at, for example, Niaq in northern West Greenland within the Palaeo-proterozoic metasediments and metavolcanics of the Karrat Group and at Milne Land within a Mesozoic palaeoplacer in central East Greenland. Other settings that may hold a potential for specialty metals are, for example, Palaeogene alkaline intrusions at Kap Simpson in central East Greenland. More information about specialty metals deposits can be found in Geology and Ore nos. 10 and 20 and at www.greenmin.gl.
Gemstones: diamond, ruby and sapphire
After a long period of intense studies and exploration campaigns, the northernmost part of the North Atlantic Craton in southern West Greenland, comprising the area from north of Nuuk to the area north of Søndre Strømfjord, is established as a diamond-bearing province with an overwhelming number of known kimberlite and lamproite dyke and sill occurrences. Diamonds have been discovered in several places and detailed investigations and testing have been carried out at the Garnet Lake kimberlite occurrence, east of Sukkertoppen Iskappe. Hudson Resources Inc. has until 2009 carried out a successful exploration programme on the company's Greenland diamond project. The company has shipped sample material for further analysis in Canada and also processed more than 560 tons of diamond-bearing kimberlite at Garnet Lake southwest of Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland. The company estimates that the host rock of the diamonds can be followed up to 2,000 metres in a moderately dipping sill.
Close to a couple of thousand diamonds have already been found in the Sarfartoq area, and of these, between 400-500 are macro diamonds, i.e. more than 0.5mm in three dimensions. The biggest of the diamonds is 2.5 carat, which is the biggest diamond found in Greenland to date.
In the Disko/Nuussuaq area, Avannaa Resources Ltd. has rather quickly been able to present some promising samples. One of these samples contained a macro diamond of 0.83 x 0.66 x 0.53mm. In 2008, the company found 1,487 diamonds including 10 macro diamonds in a 434-kg sample. This sample contributes to the expansion of the West Greenland diamond province from the area west of Maniitsoq into the Disko/Nuussuaq region further to the north.
NunaMinerals began diamond exploration at Qaamasoq in 2010, successfully completing a 2131 line-km helicopter-borne magnetic survey (by Sanders Geophysics Ltd., Canada) over the licence. Detailed ground truthing of the resulting magnetic targets demonstrated that kimberlite float occurs abundantly at four localities. Three samples processed, totalling 150.4 kg, were all found to be diamondiferous, resulting in six diamonds with the largest stone recovered from the 212-micron sieve.
No diamond exploration is currently taking place in Greenland.
Ruby and pink sapphires were discovered in the mid 1960’s in the Fiskenæsset area in southern West Greenland. Since then, each new exploration campaign has led to new discoveries. The most investigated and tested is the Aappaluttoq deposit. Other areas within the Nuuk and the Maniitsoq regions have also yielded discoveries of rubies. It is believed that the above areas pose potential for other gemstone targets. Similarly, Palaeoproterozoic deformed Archaean basement rocks in central West and South-East Greenland may also hold a potential. More information about gemstones in Greenland can be found in Geology and Ore nos. 4 and 7 and at www.greenmin.gl.