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Locations and history
Mining in Greenland has long been an important ele-
ment in the exploitation of the country's natural re-
sources, and the mining tradition extends far back in
Exploration for minerals was introduced in the 1700s
and 1800s, although it was of course on an extremely
modest scale in comparison with present standards.
Exploitation of the mineral ores increased at the start of
the 1900s, when the cryolite mine in Ivittuut was
increasingly active in southern Greenland, where there
had been mining operations since 1854.
An attempt to mine copper in the area had been
made in 1850s, at the so-called Josva Copper Mine.
Inadequately known quantities of ore, simple technolo-
gy and a number of ship losses were significant reasons
why the copper mine had to be abandoned at that
In the period before the First World War the new indus-
trialisation required copper and graphite for the rapid
developments occurring in the use of electricity.
This was the situation when a new attempt to mine
copper was recommenced at
the Josvas copper deposit.
From 190415 the Josva
Mine was in operation, and
it was closed because of
decreasing ore grade. Shortly
thereafter the company dis-
mantled the mine town and
plant, and moved the equip-
ment to Amitsoq in southern
Greenland, for use in a new
graphite mine. The Amitsoq
mine went on until 1924,
and mine activities were
abandoned due to the
downward tendency for
commodity prices and the
general depression after the
war. Only the cryolite mine continued and even steadily
increased profit until it's closure in 1987.
In the period from 1958 to 1980 the Danish state
conducted exploration and test mining for radioactive
commodities around the Kvanefjeld deposit in South
Mining in Greenland must be organised from the basic
level with the equipment plan and infrastructure, and
the entire operation must be based on all necessary
materials, supplies and fuel having to be transported to
Greenland by sea traditionally, and by air in modern
Mining for cryolite 18541987
Greenland`s white gold in Ivittuut
3.7 million t of ore was mined in the period with an
average content of 58% cryolite in the ore.
Mining began in 1854 with galena as the target.
Soon after cryolite became the key commodity. Cryolite
was used in the production of soda and iron enamelling
until 1887. From 18871987 cryolite was used as a flux
Early mining activities in
Ivittuut Cryolite Mine
3.7 million t
Josva Copper Mine
King Frederik VIIs Mine
Kvanefjeld Uranium Mine
1958 / 1980
365 g/t U
Amitsoq Graphite Mine
in the production of metallic aluminium the use
which made cryolite indispensable to modern
industry and the application of aluminium.
Ivittuut was the only cryolite mine in operation
world wide so far. After 1987 the operations
turned out to be uneconomical and the activity
was terminated. Today cryolite is made artificially.
Mining for copper 19041915
2200 t of ore was mined in the Josva Mine in this
period with 3.5% copper in average. Byproducts
from the production were 0.5 kg gold and 50 kg
The total production went on from under-
ground levels down to 100 m. There were high
expectations to the copper mining, and a smelter
was installed. Capital and man power were
designed as half size of the Ivittuut mine.
Amount and grade were too limited to be eco-
nomic. Smelting operations failed and the mine
was abandoned after 10 years of operation.
Amitsoq Graphite Mine 19151924
During the lifetime of the mine 6000 t of ore with
21% graphite were mined underground and in
open pit. The mine was abandoned after difficul-
ties in separating the graphite flakes.
The deposit still has a calculated resource of
250,000 t of ore which averages 20% graphite.
The company behind the Josva Mine estab-
lished the mine and the equipment and buildings
from Josva were moved to Amitsoq. The graphite
mine was partly financed by international capital
for the first time in Greenland mining history.
Mining uranium over the period
20,000 t ore with 365 g/t U in average was mined
on a pilot scale in several runs. The mining was
carried out underground from a 1000 m drift; cal-
culated reserves are up to 56 million t. Further
activity ceased after the early 1980s.
Geological Survey of Denmark
and Greenland (GEUS)
Øster Voldgade 10
DK-1350 Copenhagen K
Tel: (+45) 38 14 20 00
Fax.: (+45) 38 14 20 50
Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum
Government of Greenland
P.O. Box 930
Tel: (+299) 34 68 00
Fax.: (+299) 32 43 02
Layout: GEUS, Grafisk
Printers: FROM & CO
© GEUS 2002
Greenland Resources A/S
P.O. Box 821
Tel: (+299) 32 79 13
Fax.: (+299) 32 79 14
Bondam, J. 1992: Graphite occurrences in Greenland A review.
Open File Series Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse 92/6,
Pauly, H. & Bailey, J.C. 1999: Genesis and evolution of the Ivigtut
cryolite deposit, SW Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland,
Geoscience 37, 60 pp.
Petersen, O.V. & Secher, K. 1993: The Minerals of Greenland,
The Mineralogical Record 24,2, Arizona, U.S.A. 67 pp.
Secher, K. & Burchardt, J. 2000: Modern mining technology 100
years ago. In: This is Greenland 20002001 (Danker, P. ed.)
Government of Greenland and Royal Danish Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, 166161.
Sørensen, H. (ed.) 2001: The Ilímaussaq alkaline complex, South
Greenland: status of mineralogical research with new results.
Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin 190, 167 pp