Leftist Opposition Wins Greenland’s Election Dooming Rare Earth Mining Project with Chinese Owners
A left-wing environmentalist opposition party has won Tuesday’s parliamentary election in Greenland, a semi-autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, thus essentially dooming a mining project for rare earth minerals, which would have been developed by an Australian company majority-owned by Chinese shareholders.
According to results released on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, the Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won 36.6% percent of the vote coming ahead of Siumut, a social democratic party which has been in power in Greenland for all but four years since Greenland gained autonomy from Denmark back in 1979.
Even though it lost, the Siumut party, which headed the outgoing government, won 29.4% of the casts, which is still two percentage points higher than its results in the 2018 election. Siumut’s loss is partly attributed to internal strife.
Winner Inuit Ataqatigiit had been pronouncedly opposed to the development of rare earth mining project of the Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit deposit in Southern Greenland, which has been led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals.
The IA party is thus expected to have 12 out of the 31 seats in the Inatsisartut, Greenland’s parliament, up from the 8 seats that it has at present.
It will be short of an absolute majority, and will seek to form a ruling coalition with smaller parties.
“Thank you to the people who trusted us to work with the people in the centre for the next four years,” IA leader Mute Egede said on KNR public television after the results were announced, as cited by France24 and AFP.
34-year-old IA leader Mute Egede, who has been a member of the Greenland parliament since 2015, said he would immediately start discussions to “explore different forms of cooperation” before forming a coalition government. Egede has been the leader of the left-green party since 2019.
While the IA party is not against mining per se, after the victory, Egede told Danish public broadcaster DR that they would halt the Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit mining project.
“The people have spoken,” stated the IA leader.
The dividing line between the two largest parties in Greenland, Inuit Ataqatigiit and Siumut, has been whether to greenlight the controversial giant rare earth and uranium mining project at Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit in the southernmost part of Greenland.
The development of the Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit deposit Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals has been the subject of public hearings recently.
Greenland’s Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit deposit is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.
Rare earth minerals are a group of 17 metals such as neodymium, which are used as components in various industries such as the manufacturing of smartphones, wind turbines, electric cars, combat aircraft, and other weapons.
IA had previously called for a moratorium on uranium mining, which had made it clear its potential electoral victory would effectively bring the Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit project to a halt.
It has been precisely disputes over the Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit project that brought about the early elections in the Danish territory as a smaller party left the ruling coalition headed by the Siumut party.
According to opponents of the uranium and rare earth mining project led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, it carries too many environmental risks, including radioactive waste.
Siumut party chairperson Erik Jensen congratulated 34-year-old Egede on his party’s victory.
“We congratulate Inuit Ataqatigiit on their election. Now we’re excited to see what the negotiations will bring in the coming days,” Jensen said.
The head of the Siumut Party told Denmark’s TV 2, as cited by the BBC, that he believed the controversy surrounding the Kvanefjeld mine was “one of the main reasons” for its defeat
The Siumut party had supported the mine‘s development expecting it to provide hundreds of jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the next decades, potentially resulting in greater independence for Greenland from Denmark.
Greenland, with a total population of 56,000 people and a territory of over 2,166,000 square kilometers (836,330 square miles), is the least populated territory on the planet.
Greenland is one of the countries of the Kingdom of Denmark together with Denmark and the Faroe Islands.
It has been a member of the Association of the Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union (OCTA) since 2000, a body comprising 22 members. Greenland‘s citizens are also citizens of the European Union.
Greenland made world headlines in 2019 when US President Donald Trump attempted to purchase what is the world’s largest island from the Kingdom of Denmark, much to the dismay of everybody in the West. The proposal, which would have resembled America’s purchase of Alaska from the former Russian Empire in 1867, was flat rejected by Copenhagen.
Greenland’s economy largest consists of fishing and subsidies from the Danish government. Climate change causing the melting of the island’s ice cap has resulted in increased opportunities for mining and the respective controversies.
The Chinese-owned Australian-based Greenland Minerals company that owns the site at Kvanefjeld / Kuannersuit has stated that the mine in question has “the potential to become the most significant western world producer of rare earths.” China has other mining deals in Greenland.
In 2019, Denmark placed Greenland for the first on the top of its national security agenda.
Climate change affecting Greenland’s melting ice cap has put renewed emphasis on existing territorial disputes in the Arctic region with Denmark on Greenland’s behalf, Russia and Canada trying to gain sovereignty over a vast underwater mountain range near the North Pole known as Lomonosov Ridge.
Greenland, previously as a colony of Denmark, and presently as an autonomous Danish territory, has been home to Thule Air Base, the US military’s northernmost base, located about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) above the Arctic Circle, since 1951.
It is a radar and listening post with a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System that can warn of incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles and reaches thousands of miles into Russian territory.