Ivittuuts mineral wealth
The cryolite mine in South Greenland closed in 1987 after almost 140 years of uninterrupted activity.
Text & Photo: Bjarne Ljungdahl, greenland today July 2013
It all began in 1854, where it was galena (lead ore) that had the interest of the English mining engineer J.W. Tayler. In 1884, it was discovered that the cryolite could be used in an electrolytic process as a catalyser in the extraction aluminium from bauxite ore. Using cryolite in the process lowered the melting point during extraction, resulting in large energy savings.
This use prevailed for the next 100 years and so started a true mineral fairy tale, not least in the light of the Americans’ massive acquisitions, since aluminium was in demand in the growing aircraft industry.
Rarer mineral formations revealed
Cryolite is a relatively rare mineral and it was the largest deposit, together with quartz and siderite (iron carbonate). But other, even rarer mineral formations were gradually revealed and today we know that the area hosts at least one hundred different minerals, including several sulphides (metal bearing compounds) and halides (first and foremost minerals with a Fluor content).
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Potential Geo-tourism
The many mineral deposits are a true Mecca for mineral collectors from all over the world, since many of the minerals can only be found here or in small deposits elsewhere in the world. It would be obvious to establish an area for geo-tourism here. In other places around the world, such areas have turned into busy local activities with new opportunities for income.
There are many places in Europe that have done a lot to preserve the old mining areas because of their unique history and because of the potential for attracting the attention of passionate mineral collectors from all over the world.
An area worth preserving
People are working hard at the moment to preserve and develop the area for cruise ships and geo-tourism. It is possible to stay overnight under hostel standards on visits lasting several days. There is even a small, protected harbour where passing private boats can put in safely.
For those who are not interested in mining, there are many other activities. There are nature studies of Arctic plants or fishing from the coast and the laid out track can easily be used for walks.
For eager collectors of minerals, it is particularly the rare halides that are of interest: Cryolite, Cryolithionite, Chiolite, Thomsenolite, Pachnolite, Ralstonite, Jarlite and Prosopite and more, some even rarer. You can conclude that there are many possibilities.
You can hope that the responsible authorities see the potential of this area, so that historic Ivittuut is preserved for the future, for tourism and for natural science activities in Greenland.
Read the full article from the magazine here Ivittuut_UK