Oil and Gas

UPDATE 2-Greenland will offer oil, gas concessions next year -minister

* Blocks to be tendered are in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay

* West coast oil and gas resources estimated at 17 billion boe

* Greenland plans to launch two more mines in next four years (Adds bullets, detail on mining projects)

BEIJING, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Greenland will offer oil and gas concessions off its west coast next year, its mineral resources minister said in an interview on Tuesday, as the self-ruled region of Denmark tries to get a flagging exploration programme back on track.

The concessions will be in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, said Mute Bourup Egede, speaking to Reuters during an annual Greenland Day event at the Danish embassy in Beijing. Both bodies of water are between Greenland and Canada.

Egede put the estimated resources off Greenland’s west coast at about 17 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), with another 32 billion boe on the east coast. It is unclear whether the resources are mostly oil or gas, he said.

Despite the vast potential, progress on exploration in Greenland has been slow, not helped by a plunge in oil prices that began in mid-2014 and has left benchmark crudes still at around 50 percent of their values of three years ago.

Norway’s Statoil was one of several firms to cut exposure to Greenland when it announced in January 2015 that it was handing back three exploration blocks to the government.

The 2018 licensing round will be open to all and “we’ll choose the best” bidders, Egede said.

Greenland is part of Denmark with self-government over domestic affairs. Copenhagen handles defence and foreign policy.

Greenland’s minister for industry, labour, energy and trade, Hans Enoksen, earlier on Tuesday told a media briefing at the embassy there were no plans to offer additional oil and gas licences, as the country focuses on renewable energy instead.

It was not immediately clear why the two ministers appeared to give conflicting information. A press officer at the embassy was not immediately able to provide clarification.

Egede declined to give an update on the Kvanefjeld rare earth project, led by Greenland Minerals and Energy, since this was pending approvals. Kvanefjeld also holds substantial uranium reserves, although Egede said his party, Inuit Ataqatigiit, opposes uranium extraction.

Greenland’s sole producing mine is a ruby mine operated by LNS Greenland that started up in May.

Next year, Hudson Resource’s anorthosite project will begin production, and Greenland has signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia’s Ironbark Zinc on an exploitation licence for the Citronen zinc-lead project in the far north, said Egede.

“If everything goes well it will be our third mine in two-four years,” said Egede, who will meet both Ironbark and China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group, which Ironbark is trying to bring in as an investor, while in Beijing. (Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Tom Hogue and David Evans)