Cold Greenland Is Hot

When asked about “bucket list travel dreams,” clients never mention Greenland. Greenland is the world’s largest island that’s not a continent, as is Australia. Located east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, surrounded by the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, most of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle. Over 80% of the land mass is covered with a massive ice sheet. Adventurous travelers are showing increased interest in Greenland, as are real estate buyers!

The “Mansion” section of The Wall Street Journal (9/27/19) headlined, “Greenland Is Getting Hotter: Real-estate agents see an uptick in inquiries for their already-hot market after a presidential proposal.” In August, President Trump floated a not-so-new-idea of America buying Greenland, prompting the Danish Prime Minister to label the notion “absurd.” Why Greenland?

Study a global map. The value of real estate often rests on “location, location, location” and the island’s position in the North Atlantic represents growing geopolitical importance. As polar ice caps recede, northern shipping lanes are expanding. The Northwest Passage, a sea route from Europe to the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic Ocean along the northern extremes of North America via Canadian Arctic Archipelago waterways, is touted as a new tourist expedition adventure by several cruise lines. But the real fascination is with Greenland’s richness in untapped natural resources.

A variety of rare earth minerals are essential to mobile phones, computers, electric car motors, satellites, lasers, other electronics, and sophisticated military hardware, including jet engines. China controls roughly 80% of the world’s rare-earth production. Given Xi Jinping’s march toward global hegemony and the diminishment of American influence, no longer can we view China as a benign supplier. Greenland contains massive deposits of rare-earth and other metals, including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium, plus uranium, zinc, and zinc byproducts. Hence growing interest by America and other powers, including Russia.

Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory, population 56,000, with limited self-government and its own parliament, located in the capital, Nuuk, population 18,000. The country depends on Denmark for two-thirds of its budget, the rest coming from fishing and tourism. The government owns all the land; there’s no private property. To build one must secure a government permit.

For $25 million in gold coin, in 1917 America bought our three U.S. Virgin Islands from Denmark as a security asset in the Atlantic Ocean to buffer German wartime seafaring expansion. In a similar vein, the U.S. has had ongoing interest in mineral leases in Greenland, so Trump’s comment was not the bizarre banality some media pundits made it out to be.

The WSJ noted that in Nuuk the average price for a 3-bedroom, 1,100 square foot flat or house is now $442,000. That in a country averaging 2-3 months of daylight during long dark Arctic winters. Paradise found? Having been to Greenland, this writer can attest to rugged and dramatic scenery, especially on the western coast around Nuuk and Ilulissat. Disko Bay is a wide inlet of Baffin Bay. Giant icebergs calve off of the icecap into the Ilulissat Icefjord, and a parade of icebergs is backing up behind an underwater moraine akin to railcars in a train yard. An early morning cruise in a small boat out of Ilulissat in the shadow of the icebergs is a photographer’s dream. The iceberg that doomed the Titanic came from Disko Bay.

If Greenland is on your bucket list, check out the French cruise line, Ponant. On yacht-like intimate ships, Ponant runs naturalist-led expedition trips to Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago out of Reykjavik, Iceland, and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. There’s no direct air service between the U.S. and Greenland. Kangerlussuaq, population 500, is a former U.S. air base with the only runway in the country capable of handling large passenger jets. Ponant runs charters out of Paris and there is scheduled service from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Reykjavik, Iceland.  If you have time and money, you could combine Greenland with a land-based adventure in Iceland (highly recommended!), or even a holiday in Denmark or Paris.

Nuuk is not ready for a Trump Tower, but the president’s interest in Greenland is well advised given global power plays. America maintains a strategic air base at Thule, Greenland. China has holdings in the Kvanefjeld mine in southern Greenland, overseen by Australia-based Greenland Minerals, extracting uranium and exotic minerals. America’s leaders should be paying attention, as should American investors in technology plays that depend on rare-earth minerals.

China aggressively has been locking up mineral resources all over the globe. We don’t want our technological prowess held hostage to supply shortages and price-gouging involving needed resources akin to the dominance of OPEC in oil not that long ago. We can’t depend on not-so-friendly competitors! It’s a global game. Greenland is hot and in play.

 

By Lewis J. Walker, CFP®

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