Canadian Company Plans to Mine “Eco-Friendly” Gold in Iceland

Vopnafjörður

Robots and geothermal energy are expected to help a Canadian company produce “eco-friendly” gold in Iceland, Mining Weekly reports. St-Georges Eco-Mining, which recently acquired all Icelandic mineral licences, is exploring the possibility of gold mining at several locations in Iceland, including at Þormóðsdalur just 20km (12.4mi) east of Reykjavík.

“Our emphasis will be on making the most eco-friendly and socially responsible gold in the world,” St-Georges CEO Vilhjálmur Þór Vilhjálmsson stated in an interview about the company’s plans in Iceland. “We foresee that our gold would be sold with a premium.”

Years of Research Required

Research is still needed to find out whether Iceland’s gold deposits are large or concentrated enough to be mined, and Vilhjálmur stated St-Georges expects to spend ISK 500 million ($3.6m/€3.1m) over the next few years on finding out. If mining does go ahead, Vilhjálmur insists that the operation would be minimally invasive.

“Our ideology is about making minimal disturbances to the ground,” he stated. “In Þormóðsdalur, you will hardly see when mining activity starts.” The company plans to make use of all materials extracted from the ground during mining. After the gold is extracted, the remaining material will be used in building material and concrete.

Holds All Mineral Rights in Iceland

St-Georges announced in a press release last month that it had acquired all Icelandic mineral licences in Iceland, giving it total control over all the mineral rights in the country. This makes it “the only junior exploration company to own all the mineral rights of a western country,” the press release states. Besides gold, the company also holds exploration rights for silver and copper in Iceland.

St-Georges has “direct and indirect control of all issued and pending mineral licences in Iceland,” covering a total area of over 4,600 square kilometres (1,780 square miles) in locations across the country, including Vopnafjörður, Northeast Iceland; Öxnadalur, North Iceland; and Þormóðsdalur. The latter location has some history of gold mining: poet and businessman Einar Benediktsson found a gold deposit at the site which was later investigated and mined between 1908-1925.

A senior analyst for metals and mining at Bloomberg Intelligence, Grant Sporre, has expressed scepticism St-Georges could sell Icelandic gold at a premium since there is no universal standard for what qualifies as “green gold.”

Iceland Could Start Vaccinating for COVID-19 Early Next Year

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

A COVID-19 vaccine that has proved 90% effective in phase 3 trials could spell the beginning of the end of the pandemic, stated Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason in a briefing in Reykjavík today. Þórólfur, often admired for his straightforward manner and sticking to the facts, expressed clear optimism about the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Iceland has already acquired the right to buy the vaccines developed by the companies when it is ready.

Vaccination Could Begin Early Next Year

“This is the first time, in my opinion, that we can truly start seeing land in terms of vaccination against COVID-19, though many of the conclusions from research on these vaccines are yet to come, which could possibly obstruct their development,” Þórólfur stated. “But I think the information from the last few days gives us hope that we can start vaccinating at the beginning of next year. This information should inspire us to hope that we are possibly looking toward the end of COVID-19, though of course, various things could arise in the near future that may get in the way of those hopes.”

Þórólfur emphasised the importance of continued social distancing and personal preventative measures such as hand washing, use of sanitizer, and disinfection of shared surfaces. He stated that Iceland’s current restrictions would be relaxed slowly, starting on November 18.

Case Numbers Dropping in Iceland

Iceland reported 18 new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, a similar number to previous days. Only four of those cases were diagnosed outside of quarantine, suggesting that community transmission is on the decline. The number of active cases in the country has been dropping since late October and is now at 472. While a significant number of COVID-19 patients remain in hospital, that number has also dropped significantly in recent days.

At the briefing, authorities thanked the public for their efforts, but emphasised that small group outbreaks are still occurring at workplaces, among families, and wherever people gather. Þórólfur has nevertheless submitted recommendations for relaxing restrictions to the Health Ministry, which is now reviewing his suggestions. Though he declined to go into detail as to what his recommendations entailed, he did say they constituted loosening restrictions, though not as much as some people may have hoped.

 Hospitals Still Under Strain

Though the healthcare system is operating within capacity, authorities emphasised that Akureyri Hospital in North Iceland and Sólvellir nursing home in Eyrarbakki were experiencing additional strain. The National University Hospital in Reykjavík was expected to lower its state of emergency to a state of alert later today. Optional surgeries, which had been postponed due to the current wave, will resume at the hospital shortly.