Greenland to the vote: mining exploitation and autonomy at stake

The Greenland, an island in the Arctic Ocean and administrative region of Denmark, opens polling stations today for parliamentary elections. The future of the territory is a decisive appointment, which has now become an important strategic point for the control of the Arctic routes, both from an economic and a geopolitical point of view.

The dominant theme is a mining project of rare earths that can diversify the economy of the largest island in the world (four times the size of Italy) that climate change is redesigning. The project that caused a political crisis in February and the early election for the 31 seats of the local parliament concerns rare earths and uranium in the south of the island of Kuannersuit. The Australian Greenland Minerals, supported by the Chinese group Shenghe, has obtained an exploration license for the mine that can transform itself into an economic resource capable of supporting the island’s other major industry, fishing.

The rare earthin fact, they are a group of seventeen metals used as components in high-tech devices such as smartphones, flat screens, electric cars and weapons. Environmentalists fear, however, that large-scale mining could damage the pristine landscape and exacerbate threats to the Greenland ecosystem.

The Social Democratic Party Siumut, the largest in Greenland, has dominated island politics since 1979 but is also lagging behind in polls due to support for the mining project. The green and left-wing opposition party Inuit Ataqatigiit (Ia), ahead of the polls, opposes uranium mining for fear of radioactive waste. The autonomous Danish territory in 2009 obtained the ownership of its mineral reserves along with self-government and has long held the hope that the riches believed to be buried under its surface (and that the melting of the ice makes it accessible) help one day to cut the financial umbilical cord with Copenhagen. Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is dependent on annual Danish subsidies of around € 526 million, about one third of its national budget.

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