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Isua Iron Ore Mining Project, Greenland

The Isua Iron Ore Mine owned by London Mining Greenland A/S has faced a range of criticisms given limitations in the public consultation process and the mine’s location in a hunting area 150 north-east of the capital Nuuk.


Upon gaining self-governance from Denmark in 2009, the Greenlandic rule has encouraged the expansion of the natural resource extraction industry and opened up the country’s rich range of mineral deposits to foreign investment [1]. Despite this, costs and risks of mining in Greenland have remained high due to harsh arctic conditions, limited infrastructure and the remoteness of mine deposits [2]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Isua Iron Ore Mining Project, Greenland
Location of conflict:Qeqqata
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The first discovery of iron ore resources at Isua dates back to 1965, and several companies have carried out exploratory drilling since [5]. London Mining Greenland A/S (henceforth LMG) acquired their exploration license for the Isua project in 2005, the first large-scale mining project granted in Greenland [6]. By 2010, a pre-feasibility study had been completed and LMG had undertaken three exploration drilling campaigns at the site [4]. 2012 saw the approval of the so-called ‘Large Scale Project Act’ (‘Storskalaloven’) in Inatsisartut (the Greenlandic Parliament) which created a framework that eased the possibility for companies to bring foreign workforce exempt from the country’s labour standards into Greenland for the construction of large scale mining projects [7, 8]. This affected the Isua mining project, where LMG’s proposed plans to bring a large amount of foreign workers into the country sparked controversy [8].

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Project area:29,000
Level of Investment:2,000,000,000.00
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:London Mining PLC. from United Kingdom - Previous owner of London Mining Greenland A/S until bankrupcy
London Mining Greenland A/S (LMG) from Greenland - Project owner
Orbicon A/S from Denmark - Conducted environmental impact assessment
General Nice Development Ltd. from Hong Kong SAR, China - Company behind London Mining Greenland A/S since 2014
Grontmij A/S from Netherlands - Conducted social impact assessment.
Relevant government actors:Naalakkersuisut (Government of Greenland) - Environmental Agency for Mineral Resources Activities (EAMRA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Avataq (Grønlands natur- og miljøforening) -
Nuup Kangerluata Ikinngutai (Friends of Nuuk Fjord)
Foreningen 16. August (Association 16. August)
ICC Greenland (
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Other socio-economic impactsInflux of foreign labour.
Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Project development currently inactive due to lack of financial backing
Development of alternatives:The Inuit Circumpolar Council and Avataq have both argued for an improved public consultation process and proposed several improvements including that information is made available that is informative, transparent and accessible in both Danish and Greenlandic.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:With the future of the project uncertain and current inactivity in developing the mine because of low global iron prices, it is too early to evaluate whether this case is an environmental justice success. However, the developments to date point to clear EJ limitations. The Inuit Circumpolar Council are amongst those who have criticised the lack of debate over mining development in Greenland, as Naalakkersuisut quickly opened up to foreign mining companies and investment upon gaining self-rule, marginalising the consultation on large-scale projects such as Isua [24]. Local consultation in the mining process has arguably been made more difficult following a structural shift in the municipalities of Greenland in 2009, where the decision was made to join 18 municipalities into four large ones spanning over huge geographical areas [5]. In the Isua case, the Inuit Circumpolar Council and Avataq have both argued for an improved public consultation process. The lack of appropriate public consultation therefore points to serious procedural justice issues with the Isua project and indicate it so far having EJ limitations. Another EJ issue in this case is the dilemma resulting from differing ideas of ownership rights over land and resources in Greenland. People mobilising against the project and EJ organisations have pointed to the contradictions between the collective land use in the area of the proposed Isua mine as a traditional hunting area, and the exclusive exploitation rights granted to private mining companies by the government [3]. However, with an overall pro-mining stance in Greenland at the prospect of economic prosperity and jobs, evaluating what outcome would be considered an environmental justice success is difficult. Results from past public hearings have pointed to the Isua mine being an opportunity for both direct and indirect employment and development of local businesses, alongside education and training opportunities [5]. However, with the controversial ‘Large Scale Project Act’ (‘Storskalaloven’) easing the ability to bring international labour to work on large-scale projects, the beneficial social impacts on the local community are not certain to become a reality [6].
Altogether, these issues point to serious limitations with procedural justice in this case. However, with mining developments at Isua currently at a standstill until investment becomes more feasibly, it remains to be seen what the outcome of this proposed large-scale project will be.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[16] Schultz-Nielsen, J. (2018) ‘Nuuk: Kinesisk mineprojekt holdes i live.’ (Translation: ‘Nuuk: Chinese mining project kept alive’). Sermitsiaq, 10/10/18.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] Taagholt, J. and Brooks, K. (2016) ‘Mineral riches: a route to Greenland’s independence?’ Polar Record, 52(264): 360-271.

[5] Ackrén, M. (2016) ‘Public Consultation Processes in Greenland Regarding the Mining Industry.’ Arctic Review on Law and Politics, 7(1): 3-19.

[12] Nuttall, M. (2012) ‘The Isukasia iron ore mine controversy: Extractive industries and public consultation in Greenland.’ Nordia Geographical Publications, 41(5): 23–34.

[6] Trump, B.D., Kadenic, M. and Linkov, I. (2018) ‘A sustainable Arctic: Making hard decisions.’ Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 50(1).

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[10] Sermitsiaq editorial office (2011) ‘Ensidigt borgermøde om Isukasia.’ (Translation: ‘One-sided public meeting about Isukasia’). Sermitsiaq, 30/08/11.
[click to view]

[1] Naalakkersuisut, Government of Greenland (n.d.) ‘Energy and Minerals.’ About Greenland, Economy and Industry in Greenland.
[click to view]

[3] Wamsler, L. (2012) ‘Grønland giver køb på retten til egne mineraler.’ (Translation: ‘Greenland opens up for purchasing the rights to its minerals’). Information, 02/07/12.
[click to view]

[8] Boersma, T. and Foley, K. (2015) ‘Dark Clouds Gather over Greenland’s Mining Ambitions.’ Brookings, Planet Policy, 16/01/15.
[click to view]

[9] George, J. (2011) ‘Huge Isua iron mine under development in western Greenland.’ Nunatsiaq News, 19/09/11.
[click to view]

[11] Krarup, P. (2012) ‘Demonstration mod jernmine.’ (Translation: ‘Demonstration against iron mine’). Sermitsiaq, 15/09/12.
[click to view]

[13] Armstrong, A. (2014) ‘Ebola-hit London Mining collapses into administration.’ The Telegraph, 16/10/14.
[click to view]

[15] Naalakkersuisut (2015) ‘New strong force behind London Mining Greenland.’ Government of Greenland, News 08/01/15.
[click to view]

[17] Orbicon A/S (2013) ‘Isua Iron Ore Project - Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Prepared for London Mining Greenland A/S.’ March 2013, Final Version.
[click to view]

[18] Broberg, H. (2012) ‘Jernminen bekymrer ICC og WWF.’ (Translation: ‘ICC and WWF express concerns over iron mine’). Sermitsiaq, 21/10/12.
[click to view]

[19] Kleeman, L.M. (2012) ‘Demonstration mod Alcoa og London Mining.’ (Translation: ‘Demonstration against Alcoa and London Mining’). Sermitsiaq, 07/03/12.
[click to view]

[20] Langhoff, R. (2012) ‘Gør klar til storskala-protest.’ (Translation: ‘Get ready for large-scale protest’). Sermitsiaq, 21/11/12.
[click to view]

[21] Fouche, G. (2016) ‘Chinese firm unlikely to develop $2 billion Greenland iron ore mine soon: minister.’ Reuters, 26/01/19.
[click to view]

[22] Yang, J., Liu, Y. and Dou, D. (2015) ‘Chinese Perspective on Greenland and the Isua Project.’ General Nice Development Ltd. presentation in Copenhagen, 06/10/15.
[click to view]

[23] Nyvold, M. (2013) ‘Sådan gavner jernminen dig.’ (Translation: ‘This is how the iron mine will benefit you’). Sermitsiaq, 29/11/13.
[click to view]

[24] Nunatsiaq News (2012) ‘ICC plans assessment of giant iron mine project in Greenland.’ 05/10/12.
[click to view]

[4] Mining Technology (n.d.) ‘Isua Iron Ore Project.’
[click to view]

[7] Grontmij A/S (2013) ‘Social Impact Assessment for the ISUA Iron Ore Project for London Mining Greenland A/S.’ Final version, March 2013.
[click to view]

[14] Juan, D. (2015) ‘General Nice Group to take over Greenland mine.’ China Daily, 13/01/15.
[click to view]

Other documents

Demonstrations against London Mining Around 60 people demonstrating against Alcoa and London Mining Greenland A/S. Photo by Benny Kokholm. Available from: (Last accessed: 25/10/19)
[click to view]

Demonstrations in Nuuk People demonstrating in Nuuk against the London Mining Isua project. Photo by Benny Kokholm. Available from: (Last accessed: 25/10/19)
[click to view]

Project site of proposed Isua iron mine Project site of proposed Isua iron mine, approximately 150km north-east of Nuuk. Photo from Available from: (Last accessed: 25/10/19)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ICTA-UAB, EJ Atlas Intern LM 2019
Last update07/11/2019
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