With less than 60,000 inhabitants, Greenland may seem like a small player on the world stage. However, this week, some of the major powers watched the elections on the island, which is officially part of Denmark. The reason: the battle around a mine where highly sought after minerals and metals can be mined.
According to the preliminary result, the left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit party (IA) won the elections. That party, opponent of the mining project in the south of the country, received more than a third of the votes. Party leader Egede has already said that he will stop the development of the mine.
His IA party defeated the Social Democratic Siumut. That party has been in power almost continuously since 1979. The current Prime Minister Kielsen is in favour of exploiting the mine, although there is also a disagreement within his party. That internal thing led to the signing of yesterdays early elections.
The mine that played a leading role in the election campaign is called Kvanefjeld. Rare earth metals can be mined that are used for the production of smartphones, windmills and batteries for electric cars, for example. But the extraction of these metals also releases uranium, a radioactive metal.
“ That makes exploitation of the mine controversial”, Zeicceit-correspondent Rolien Créton earlier in radio program News and Co. “Opponents are afraid of environmental damage, pollution of groundwater and drinking water. They are also concerned about the mining waste that would be stored in a reservoir.”
But there are also many supporters: “They think of the income and extra jobs that are desperately needed in Greenland. Also, the mining project is likely to lead to new infrastructure, a port and a factory.”
The photo accompanying this tweet (from two years ago) shows the area around the mine:
And then the Greenlandic desire for independence plays part. “Mines mean a way to independence,” explains Créton.
Now Denmark, to which Greenland belongs, still has a big financial finger: half of the Greenland public budget comes from Copenhagen. More own income is therefore welcome on the island, which is facing major social and economic problems. There is unemployment, poor education, alcoholism and a high suicide rate.
New sailing routes
The Kvanefjeld mine is not only in Greenland under a magnifying glass. International mining companies and major powers such as China, the US and Russia are also following developments on the island closely because they are interested in the minerals. Besides the rare earth metals, these are also oil and gas. It is not for nothing that former President Trump wanted to buy Greenland two years ago.
The fact that the ice caps are melting makes the island even more interesting for world powers, says Créton. “This creates new sailing routes: in the summer there is more room for freight transport. China, in particular, sees the northeast passage above Russia as a commercial trade route.” The Chinese currently hold about 90% of the exploitation of rare earth metals worldwide.
The Kvanefjeld mine is now owned by the Australian company Greenland Minerals and a Chinese state-owned investorer. They were already quite far in applying for a permit to operate the mine. But now, with this election result, the mining project is being put on the long track, Créton expects.
What makes Greenland so interesting for superpowers? CCEit on 3 made this video two years ago, after Trump announced that he wanted to buy the island: