* PM Kleist discussed securing minerals with EU committee
* Greenland has some of the biggest rare earths deposits
* China has near monopoly; prices up since 2011 export curb
* Rare earths used in arms industry and for TVs, phones
By Mia Shanley
COPENHAGEN, Jan 14 Greenland's prime minister
said on Monday he has rejected requests from the European Union
to block access to its deposits of rare earths, strategically
important metals in which China has a near monopoly.
Greenland, semi-autonomous from Denmark, has some of the
biggest deposits of these elements, used in weapons, telephones
and medical scanners. Rare earths prices have held at high
levels after soaring in 2011 when China restricted exports.
"It's not fair to ask Greenland to play that kind of
significant role in balancing the powers, like to protect
others' interests more than protecting, for instance, China's,"
Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist said on a visit to Copenhagen.
At a news conference, he told journalists that he had
discussed securing Greenland's minerals for Europe with an EU
Kleist said Greenland was in no position to exclude
investors from any particular country unless there was a
specific issue, and that he was aware of the reponsibility that
came with granting access to its mineral deposits.
"Greenland is open for investments from the whole world,
taking into account that the investors accept the regulations
and requirements from Greenland in doing so," he said.
The north Atlantic island, whose nation is not part of
Denmark's membership of the European Union, is next to sea lanes
that are becoming increasingly important as the Arctic melts.
One deposit alone, in southern Greenland, being explored by
Australia's Greenland Minerals and Energy, may contain
more than 10 percent of the world's deposits of rare earths.
Greenland, with a population of 57,000, is wrestling with
opportunities that offer rich rewards but risk harming a
pristine environment and a traditional society that is trying to
make its own way in the world after centuries of European rule.
China has been eyeing major investments in Greenland, whose
increasingly autonomous national government is looking further
afield for investors.
Britain-based London Mining, a firm backed by
Chinese steelmakers, is planning a $2.3 billion iron ore mine
near the capital of Nuuk. About 2,300 Chinese workers are
expected to work at the mine which would supply China with iron.
Greenland has awarded some 150 licences in all for mineral
exploration compared with less than ten a decade ago. Companies
spent about $100 million last year alone on exploration on land
and oil companies spent more than $1 billion exploring offshore.