Greenland partners with Alcoa to study smelter, hydro complex

Greenland’s Home Rule Cabinet approved a memorandum of understanding May 23 to study developing an aluminum smelter and a hydroelectric power system with U.S. aluminum company Alcoa.

The MOU encompasses a 340,000-metric-ton-per-year smelter, the unspecified hydroelectric system, and a port. The Greenland government said the exact size and cost for the overall venture would be determined when the project plan is finalized.

The parties are to begin site selection, environmental studies, engineering assessments, and other aspects of the project. If the project is found to be viable, groundbreaking for the hydropower system is expected in 2010, followed by the smelter in 2012. The smelter would begin operation by the end of 2014.

�The aluminum industry offers an excellent opportunity that we may in Greenland exploit our hydropower resources for the benefit of the country’s occupational and business development,� Silverth Heilmann, minister of Trade, Labor, and Vocational Training, said. �At the same time, the project is in full accordance with the Cabinet’s long-term goal of replacing hydrocarbon-based energy production with hydropower, one of the reasons being concern for the global environment.�

Heilmann said Alcoa was chosen as a partner in preference to other interested aluminum companies. However, the statement did not mention a January announcement by Norwegian energy and aluminum group Norsk Hydro that it would study building a smelter and 500-MW hydro plant in Greenland. (HNN 1/9/07)

�Alcoa has shown their determination to invest considerable resources in the development of this project together with us,� Heilmann said. �Simultaneously, they have been ready to meet Greenland’s requirements as to the pace of the project development, the environmental process, efforts in training and education, etc.�

In order to facilitate a quick initiation of field surveys, the parties agreed to sign the MOU in connection with the upcoming meeting of Greenland’s Joint Committee May 25-27 in Ilulissat.

Preferred sites are to be identified by Alcoa and the government. The municipalities of Nuuk, Sisimiut, and Maniitsoq have selected potential locations, support the project, and are to take active part in continued work.

At 2.1 million square kilometers, Greenland is the largest island in the world. More than 80 percent of the country is covered by ice cap. Its 57,000 people are mainly of Inuit origin.

Although located between Canada and Iceland, Greenland is historically, politically, and economically closely related to Denmark. However, its popularly elected Home Rule Government has a high degree of autonomy.

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