Emil Helms Ritzau Scanpix / AFP

GRL - Arctic mining takes centre stage in Greenland election

Greenland votes Tuesday in legislative elections largely seen as a referendum on a controversial mining project that would help diversify the Arctic island's economy as it plans for a future altered by global warming.

September 19, 2018

The autonomous Danish territory obtained ownership of its vast mineral reserves in 2009 when its self-rule powers were widened.

Those resources, its geopolitical relevance and easier access due to melting sea ice have made Greenland increasingly attractive to the world's superpowers in recent years. Donald Trump, when he was US president, even offered to buy the island in 2019.

While Denmark and Greenland made it abundantly clear the territory was not for sale, Nuuk is nonetheless keen to attract foreign investments to help it cut its financial umbilical cord to Copenhagen someday.

A rare earth and uranium mining project proposed by an Australian company and backed by Chinese investors in the south of the island in Kuannersuit could provide a massive windfall that would supplement Greenland's main industry, fishing.

But in February, a political crisis erupted when a junior party quit the coalition government over the project, leading to Tuesday's early elections for parliament's 31 seats.

- 'Unspoiled nature' -

Social democratic Siumut, Greenland's largest party, has dominated island politics since autonomy in 1979. Currently trailing in the polls, it backs the mine project.

The opposition left-green party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA), leading in the polls, opposes any uranium mining, fearing the radioactive waste could harm the pristine environment.

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