I don't know how real this threat is, but it sure sounds like a good set-up for a horror movie:
"We know, and the Russians know, there are a lot of resources there. Very precious metals, rare-earths, petrol, there is gas and gold," he told me. Greenland is not separate from these pressures.
Getting at the minerals and petroleum deposits throughout the Arctic, he says, will require moving a lot of permafrost--an amount properly measured in millions of tons. "At once, you are going to excavate 16 million tons of permafrost that has not been moved or perturbed in a million years of time," he said.
He imagines towering heaps of rotting permafrost stacked up next to mining cabins, their contents open to the sun and air and summer rain. "We are really reaching places where, if there are microbes infectious to humans or human ancestors, we are going to get them," he says.
...Even more worrisome are the microbes we don't know. "No one really understands why Neanderthals went extinct," Claverie said. Sometimes, he catches himself when talking about these possible permafrost-locked diseases--they may have threatened humans or human relatives in the past, he'll say. Then, he'll change tense, emphasizing that they could do so again.