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Operating in Greenland

Political and economic environment
Greenland is a modern, democratic, and politically stable society, strongly associated to Denmark in areas including common currency, jurisdiction and defence.

Most of Greenland's 56,000 inhabitants live along the south-western and southern coasts. The capital is Nuuk with a population of approx. 13,000. The main languages are Greenlandic and Danish but English is freely used in business dealings. About 90% of the population is born in Greenland; the remainder comes mainly from Denmark.

Greenland's GNP approximates 1,000 mill. USD with a further 400 mill. USD annually received as subsidies from Denmark. Greenland's exports, amounting to 250 mill USD, derive mainly from fishing and related industries. Other prevailing industries are trade, service, construction, tourism and mineral exploration.

All towns south of and including the second largest town Sisimiut enjoy year-round shipping services. There are daily flights to Denmark and scheduled air services to Canada and Iceland. There is a well functioning tele-communication system.


Administration of mineral resources
The Government of Greenland's Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum deals with all companies applying for exploration licenses in Greenland in a "one-door" process, normally making it unnecessary for applicants to contact other departments within the Greenland and Danish governments. Guidelines for application procedures model licences etc. are available at BMP's web site: www.bmp.gl


Physical environment
Greenland covers an area of 2.16 mill. km2, of which 410,500 km2 (comparable to the size of Sweden) is free of ice. Greenland stretches from 60°N to 82°N - a distance of almost 2500 km - and climate is thus very variable along the Greenland coast.

As the cold currents of the Arctic Ocean surround most of Greenland, with only a little mixing of warmer Gulf currents, the climate is dominantly Arctic. Most precipitation falls as snow and there is a distinct difference between the white winter and the short, colourful summer. The high latitudes affect the light conditions in the northernmost two thirds of Greenland, north of the Arctic Circle. These areas experience periods of 24-hour sunlight in the summer and corresponding polar darkness during the winter.

There is such a marked climatic variation in the 2,600 km between the north and south, and in the 1,000 km from east to west, that it is difficult to make generalisations. However, there are some common characteristics, such as a decrease in temperature and precipitation to the north. At sea level, temperatures in the south (60-62°N) typically range between -20°C to +20°C, with an annual average of around +1.5°C. Around half of the south's annual precipitation of about 900 mm falls as rain between May and October. Due to an offshoot from the Gulf Stream, the climate in the south-east is wetter and warmer.

The wide-open landscape and sparse vegetation offers good conditions for orientation and also enables large areas to be covered by airborne surveys whether in gently undulating, alpine or plateau regions. During the winter, snow cover, frozen ground and the 1-2 m of ice cover on lakes provide the basic conditions for transportation and drilling operations.

Permafrost occurs throughout Greenland. In the south it is discontinuous and shallow, but in the north the frozen layer may reach several hundred metres.

In general, only a small proportion of Greenland's ice-free area is covered with tundra vegetation; the Arctic climate means that vegetation grows very slowly. Yet in the extreme south, trees can grow up to 10 m in sheltered places. The tundra is a patchwork of fens, herb slopes, dwarf scrubs, lakes and rivers, creating a variety of habitats for mammals, birds and insects. Arctic deserts are found in mountainous regions and in the north.


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MINEX is published by GEUS in co-operation with Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, Greenland Government