LacyGreen - Legacy pollution from mines in Greenland

Project: Research

Project Details


Previous raw mineral extraction in Greenland has led to legacy mine pollution of both the terrestrial and marine environment in Ivituut, Maarmorilik and Mestersvig. At Ivittuut in South Greenland, mining of cryolite dates back to the 1850’s and has caused pollution with mainly lead and zinc in the Arsuk Fjord. The main source of pollution is related to deposition of waste rock exposed to seawater leaching in the tidal zone, which continues to release lead and zinc to the fjord. At Maarmorilik in West Greenland, the Black Angel lead-zinc-silver mine operated between 1973-1991. During this period, mine tailings and waste rocks were deposited on mountain sides and at the bottom of the Affarlikassaa Fjord, causing widespread pollution of lead, zinc and other pollutants via ocean currents and dispersal of dust. At Mestersvig in East Greenland, mining of lead and Zn took place at the Blyklippen mine between 1956-1963. During this period, the mining caused substantial pollution with lead, zinc and other heavy metals such as cadmium, barium and copper, which can be measured in biota, soils and sediment even today. Known sources of pollution at Mestersvig include tailings, waste rock and spills of concentrate, from where pollutants were subsequently dispersed into the environment by wind and water. At Mestersvig, parts of the deposited waste rock and tailings have been stabilized due to the presence of permafrost. However, due to a changing climate and regional hydrology, these permafrozen mine waste deposits may now be susceptible to increased physical and chemical erosion with an increased potential remobilization and dispersal of heavy metals to the environment. Moreover, with projected scenarios of future climate change, wind regimes may also change significantly, leading to a potential increase in wind erosion and dust dispersal of pollutants, calling for improved cold adapted dust monitoring and dust mitigation techniques.

In LacyGreen, we investigate the spatial distribution of pollutants in the environment at legacy mine sites in Greenland combined with detailed studies on environmental conditions potentially influencing water and wind transport. The project will improve the knowledge on drivers of present and future mobilization and redistribution of pollutants from legacy mine sites and the basis for future regulation of dust dispersion from mine sites in Greenland. Moreover, the project will investigate techniques to stabilize waste rock and tailings at both legacy and active mine sites to reduce or mitigate pollution from these sources.
Effective start/end date01/01/202331/12/2027


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