3 May 2016

New project explores soapstone as a local resource


This summer the fjord outside of Nuuk will set the scene for the first of two citizen science events on the potential of soapstone as a generator for local business. Producers, artists and other interested people are all invited to the event.

For centuries both local and international scientists have come to the Nuuk area to investigate its geology. The area holds a large amount of potentially interesting sites for small-scale-mining and also represent opportunities for geotourism and for archaeological investigations.

In a new collaboration between GEUS Nuuk, Ilisimatusarfik (University of Greenland), GEUS Copenhagen and the cross-disciplinary research initiative Greenland Perspective (located at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen) researchers are aiming to disseminate this knowledge to the local community.

Sailing in Nuup Kangerlua. Photo: Rebekka Knudsen

Partly inspired by the Canadian region Nunavut where a significant group of carvers uses soapstone figurines sold as “inuit art” to supplement their income, the project team believes that a similar line of products could be build up in the Nuuk area. Making knowledge on soapstone occurrences available is a first step in this direction.

Majken Djurhuus Poulsen, a Ph.D. student at GEUS Nuuk and part of the project team explains:

- Last year the Ministry of Mineral Resources held a small-scale-mining workshop and many of the participants said that more general knowledge about the geology of the area and practical information on rocks suitable for jewelry making and carving would be most welcome. That gave us the idea to show the potential of soapstone and where to find such rocks close to Nuuk. We thought it would be great fun not just to talk about it, but also to show in practice how to look at nature through the eyes of a geologist.

Excursions and workshops

The core of the project consists of two scientific outreach activities, which aims to take research out of its “ivory tower” and make it accessible for the local community. A citizen science event will be held on-site at a suitable soapstone occurrence near Nuuk on 11th June, 2016. At the event all interested citizens will be invited to a day of discovering how to find soapstone, how to collect and carve it and how to protect archaeological heritage sites when doing so. Also information about rules regarding small-scale-mining license application will be given by the Mineral Licence and Safety Authority.

A second workshop will be organized in Nuuk towards the end of the year. At this event current knowledge on soapstone occurrences in the Nuuk area, conditions for developing the resource and knowledge about its possible uses will be shared. Other themes on the agenda will be demonstration of soapstone carving and cultural heritage.

Students from Ilisimatusarfik will be invited for a field trip where they will be educated on the various geological and archeological aspects of soapstone.

In order to disseminate the project more widely, a film will be produced and the project team also aims at writing popular articles and brochures about the knowledge on and possible uses of soapstone.