The EU, Greenland’s Rare Earths, And China

“We are engaged in a ‘war’ with the Chinese” over these precious resources, one of Tajani’s advisers said, with the matter likely to make for a strained September 20 summit in Brussels.

Though the European Union did a rare earths deal with Greenland back in June, in typical European fashion, the EU’s 27 ministers (plus their advisors and bureaucrats,) won’t actually get around to reviewing it for ratification until September 20th.  It is August, and every European politician and Eurocrat of any note is on holiday, of course, welcome to Europe 2012. There are so many on freebies visiting the Olympics, poor Industry Commissioner Tajani ought to have scheduled his meeting for this month in London, but the thought of only being able to eat the sponsor’s food at the games, probably put him off.  “War” with the Chinese over rare earth elements, European style, leaves a lot of scope for the Chinese.

Below, thanks to AFP and Industry Week, a glimpse into the EU’s deal with Greenland and China’s push. With all the sense of European urgency of a sloth, perhaps the EU would be wiser to take up Comissioner Tajani’s fallback option of recycling:

“Recycling is another option. “Each year, each citizen of the EU chucks out the equivalent of 17 kilos (35 pounds) of electrical and electronic waste — that is a real urban mine,” the adviser added.”

To which, dear Commissioner, I can only ask, why is this only an either or option? Lucky those who aren’t trapped in a sclerotic European Union.

“For Europeans, Utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered; for Americans it is just beyond the horizon.”

With apologies to Henry Kissinger.

EU Fights to Catch Chinese in Greenland Rare-earths Goldrush
EU commissioner approached Greenland for exploitation rights to rare earth metal ores in return for technological, environmental mining know-how, but Chinese already there.
Aug. 6, 2012
Greenland is a frontier Eldorado with untapped reserves of critical rare earths under the Arctic ice-cap but a nimble China has already stolen a march in getting access, EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajani warns.

The Italian travelled to Greenland on June 16 to initial a deal for the European Union to share exploitation rights to rare earth metal ores in return for technological and environmental mining know-how.

—- The EU, the world’s biggest single market, is entirely dependent on imports for 14 out of a group of 17 minerals collectively known as “rare earths,” a closely fought over market currently dominated by China which guards these resources tightly.

“The Chinese president (Hu Jintao) arrived the next day,” Tajani said. “They’re already working the ground — they bought a British company and sent in 2,000 Chinese miners.”

The unwieldy machinery of EU politics means the June deal will not be examined by ministers from its 27 member states until next month.

—- The Tajani deal will see Europe pay 35% of earnings from mining ventures restricted to Greenland’s coastal strip.

A giant land-and-ice mass, Greenland has a population only the size of a small town (some 50,000 people) and according to Tajani, they were “hit badly” by the banking crisis on neighbouring Iceland and “need the money.”

They are also “very concerned about environmental protection,” which, Tajani says, gives the EU a potential advantage over Chinese and other rivals in this modern-day goldrush.
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