Newly elected party in Greenland says no to Australia and China regarding rare earth project

Supporters of the mining project believe it can provide income and jobs. The opposition is afraid of possible environmental consequences. Photo: RITZAU SCANPIX / NTB

The left-wing party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) won the Greenland vote and are now saying no to the Australian company with close Chinese connections, Greenland Minerals, regarding a proposed mining project in Kvandefjeld.

Greenland is the world’s largest island and an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. The recent election on the island located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans was a battle over one thing in particular: the fate of the mining project in the south of the island. 

The governing party Siumut has been in power since 1979, except for four years, and has supported the project. The left-wing IA party, which won by landslide and is now about to take over power, is strongly opposed to the proposed rare earth and uranium mine.

Greenland Minerals has been operating in Greenland since 2007 and the company’s primary focus is the development of the Kvanefjeld rare earth project in southwest Greenland. Despite the company’s Australian domicile and management, its major shareholder, with a 9.4 percent stake in Greenland Minerals, is the Chinese company, Shenghe Resources.

According to Greenland Minerals, the Greenland Minerals’ Kvanefjeld Project is positioned to be a future cornerstone to global rare earth supply. When developed Kvanefjeld will be a large-scale, low-cost, long-term supplier of products that are at the center of the unfolding revolution in the efficient use of energy. But many Greenlanders fear negative consequences for themselves, tourism, and the fish. That is because the mine not only contains the coveted earth metals, it also contains uranium and other radioactive substances and just five kilometers away is the town of Narsaq. 

Rasmus Leander Nielsen is a researcher at the University of Greenland. He has conducted opinion polls that show that Greenlanders are generally not opposed to mining. But a majority are skeptical of this particular mining project. “There is a lot of talk about uranium, even though it is really about rare minerals. Uranium is a by-product. It has become the symbol that this project is different. Those who live in Narsaq fear that they will have to move, that no one will buy lamb from this area, and that the tourists will disappear, Rasmus Leander Nielsen tells Aftenposten.

On Wednesday, the leader of the IA party, Mute Egede who will be Greenland’s new Prime Minister, said that the mining project in Kvandefjeld will be stopped. According to Reuters, the election result sends a strong signal to international mining companies that are looking for Greenland’s hidden minerals.

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