Greenland’s left-wing conservation party, the Inuit Ataqatigiit, won Tuesday’s general election after campaigning against the development of a disputed rare earth mine, partially backed by China.
The opposition party won 37 per cent of the vote in the long-running party, the center-left Siyumut party. Environmentalists will have to negotiate a coalition to form a government, but observers said their election victory in Greenland, a semi-autonomous territory of Denmark located on a rich vein of unused uranium and rare earth minerals, signals voter concern. the impact of mining.
Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, said the mine had “the potential to become the most important producer of rare earths in the Western world”, adding that it would create uranium as a by-product. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the vote.
Currently, the supply of rare earths, a crucial part of the high-tech global supply chain and used to produce everything from mobile phones to batteries, is dominated by China. Shenghe Resources, a Chinese rare earth company, owns 11 percent of Greenlandic minerals.
Opposition to the mine in Greenland, which the current Siumut party had backed, played a key role in its defeat, its leader Eric Jensen admitted in an interview with Danish TV2.
The mining project has been under development for years, with the government approving exploration wells but not issuing final approval for the mine.
Opposition to the mine has grown among Greenlanders due to the potential exposure to a unique, fragile area of ”radioactive contamination and toxic waste,” said Dwayne Menezes, director of the Polar Research and Policy Initiative, a London-based think tank. “What they oppose is dirty mining.”
The election result sent a clear message, Mr Menezes added: Mining companies seeking access to Greenland’s deposits will have to adhere to strict environmental standards and must strive to give Greenlanders a “viable alternative”.
In Greenland, whose economy is heavily dependent on payouts from Denmark, tensions around the mine have focused on potential economic benefits, including hundreds of jobs on an island of about 57,000 people, compared to the environmental costs of doing business.
But the vote also highlighted the growing geopolitical importance of the Arctic region on the warming planet as its polar seas became more navigable and as melting ice revealed newly available resources, including rare earths, which play a significant role in producing many alternative energy sources.
“Globally, we will have to deal with this tension between indigenous communities and the materials we will need most for a climate-rapid planet,” said Amy Boulanger, executive director of the Responsible Digging Initiative, with non-agricultural aim.
Given China’s dominance over world production and supply of rare earths, Mr Menezes said Western countries should look for ways to strengthen their partnerships with resource-rich Greenland to keep it in their “sphere of influence”. .
Two years ago, Greenland’s lucrative resources and growing strategic importance prompted President Donald J. Trump to consider buying the island. However, the Greenlandic government has made it clear that it is not for sale.
“We are open for business, not for sale,” the island’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter at the time.