MAC: Mines and Communities

Greenland’s general elections: The people have spoken!

Published by MAC on 2021-04-12
Source: Reuters, Court House News, The Globe and Mail, NPR

Inuit Ataqatigiit advocates for fishing and tourism as alternative development.

The Inuit Ataqatigiit party, which has campaigned against Greenland Minerals' Kvanefjeld Project, took 37 per cent of the votes and won Greenland's parliamentary elections.

Inuit Ataqatigiit also won three of Greenland’s five municipal mayoralty contests, including South Greenland, where the proposed mine is located. 

“The people have spoken,” Inuit Ataqatigiit leader Mr. Mute Egede, 34, told Danish radio when asked about the extractive project. “It won’t happen.”

Although Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it has autonomy in a number of areas, including natural resources.

Shares of Greenland Minerals fell more than 44 per cent after the results of the election were revealed, but the company has since made back some of those losses.

See also:

2021-04-06 Greenland votes in election centred on mining debate
2021-01-20 Greenland: Public hearings under coronavirus constraints
2019-09-21 Greenland: locals demand banishing foreign miner

Future Of Rare-Earth Mining Project In Question After Greenland's Election

The victory of the opposition party in Greenland's parliamentary elections has raised doubts about the future of a controversial rare-earth mining project in the territory.

April 8, 2021

In Greenland, the center-left Siumut party has dominated politics since the nation won the right to home rule in 1979. That changed on Tuesday when voters carried the more left-leaning IA party to victory. Sidsel Overgaard considers what the win means for this mineral-rich island.

For starters, it means the end of a proposed rare earths mine. The Kuannersuit project would have required extracting uranium as a byproduct, and that worried a lot of Greenlanders. Inuit Ataqatigiit, or IA, campaigned on a promise to stop the mine. Speaking to Danish broadcasting on Wednesday, the country's presumptive 34-year-old prime minister, Mute B. Egede, said he intends to keep that promise.

An Australian company with Chinese backing is behind the mine proposal. Its stock value has plummeted. But Kuannersuit is just one part of a larger discussion about the country's future. A majority of Greenlanders want the economy to develop to a level that would allow eventual independence from Denmark. Ulrik Pram Gad with the Danish Institute for International Studies says for years, the ruling Siumut party has been plagued by infighting and a constantly shifting platform. He says IA's win reflects a desire for stability and forward movement.

Victory for Greenland’s IA opposition party puts future of massive mine in doubt


APRIL 7, 2021

The future of a massive mining project in Greenland that has caught the attention of China and the United States has been thrown into doubt after the autonomous Danish territory’s main opposition party scored a victory in Tuesday’s general election.

Final results from the election put Inuit Ataqatigiit, which opposes the mine, on track to win 12 seats in Greenland’s 31-seat parliament. IA Leader Mute Egede will now begin negotiations to form a coalition from among four other parties that won seats. IA also won three of Greenland’s five municipal mayoralty contests, including South Greenland, where the proposed mine is located.

“The people have spoken,” Mr. Egede, 34, told Danish radio when asked about the project, known as Kvanefjeld. “It won’t happen.”

The ruling Siumut Party, which backed the mine for years but wavered recently, finished second with 10 seats. However, analysts say it’s unlikely Siumut will be a coalition partner because of internal dissent over the party’s leadership.

Although Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it has autonomy in a number of areas, including natural resources. The election has been watched closely in Washington and Beijing because of the island’s growing importance as a source of rare-earth metals, a group of 17 elements that are used in more than 200 products, including cellphones, wind turbines, electric cars and fighter jets. Greenland has some of the world’s largest deposits, and the proposed mine has become a focal point in the race to secure supplies.

China’s Shenghe Resources is playing a key role in developing Kvanefjeld, much to the consternation of the U.S. and its allies. China already dominates the production of rare-earth metals, and the U.S. and other Western countries are desperately trying to catch up.

The mine has been in the works for more than a decade, but opposition to it has been building because one of the byproducts of its open-pit excavation will be uranium. There are concerns that radioactive dust could pollute farms, ranches and fishing operations around Narsaq, a coastal town of about 1,200 people only a few kilometres from the mine site.

“This year it has been very clear that there’s a big majority against the mine,” said Sara Olsvig, a former IA leader who is a fellow at the Institute of Social Science, Economics and Journalism at the University of Greenland. “There is a very big possibility now that the uranium mine will not be realized,” she added in an interview Wednesday.

Ms. Olsvig cited a recent poll that found 71 per cent of those surveyed opposed uranium mining in Greenland. She also pointed out that IA’s triumph in South Greenland reflected local opposition to the mine because Siumut had held the mayoralty there for years.

Mr. Egede will have to tread carefully if he tries to scrap the project. China is a major buyer of Greenland’s fish, its biggest export, and the Chinese government has offered to invest in several infrastructure projects. There are also several other proposed mining projects under way, including another rare-earth mine, and halting Kvanefjeld could make it difficult to attract investment. Many Greenlanders see mining as a critical way for the island to diversify its economy and build the financial clout to gain independence from Denmark.

Ms. Olsvig said IA and other political parties have been careful not to oppose the development of the island’s resources. “All parties, including IA, wish to develop mineral resources,” she said. “They wish to diversify the economy of Greenland, but the particular Kvanefjeld project, because of the uranium and because of its location, the resistance to that particular mine has been very, very strong. But that doesn’t mean that Greenland will not develop other projects.”

Greenland has managed so far to balance the interests of China and the U.S. The previous government signed an agreement with Washington to help develop the island’s energy and mineral wealth. It also announced plans to open a consulate in Beijing this fall.

Ms. Olsvig said that while international affairs weren’t a major issue during the campaign, “there is an awareness in Greenland that there’s a need to find a balance, to continue to be able to export fish and shrimp to East Asia, including China.”

Rasmus Leander Nielsen, an assistant professor of social science at the University of Greenland, said Kvanefjeld could yet survive. The majority owner of the project, Australian-based Greenland Minerals, has spent roughly US$100-million so far on planning costs and will likely wait for the next election, he said. “The only way they can do it is to sit this one out and wait for another political majority at some point in the future.”

He added that there are pockets of support for the mine, and polls show Greenlanders overall want to broaden the island’s economic base. “It is important for the new government to make a strong signal to the mining community that it’s only this particular project that is problematic,” he said.

Greenland Rejects Huge Rare-Earth Mine in National Elections

The Arctic island is a battleground of the future as companies and nations vie to extract its massive deposits of the stuff needed to make F-35 fighter jets, electric cars and smartphones. In a crucial election, Greenlanders voted for a party opposed to the construction of a massive rare-earth mine.

April 7, 2021

Favoring tradition and the environment over industry, voters in Greenland backed a left-wing party opposed to the construction of what could become one of the world’s largest rare earth mines.

On Wednesday, election results showed Inuit Ataqatigiit, a left-wing environmental party, winning Tuesday’s snap election with about 37% of the vote. The election for Greenland’s tiny 31-seat parliament garnered international attention because it carried geopolitical implications.

Greenland is seen as a potential major source for rare earth elements, a market now dominated by China, which accounts for two-thirds of rare earth mining and about 90% of global production. Rare earth elements are a set of 17 soft heavy metals, such as neodymium and scandium, that go into the making of smartphones, lasers, electric cars, wind turbines and military hardware such as the F-35 fighter jet.

The United States and its allies are seeking to develop alternative sources from China and are eying Greenland as a potential trove. In 2019, former U.S. President Donald Trump even proposed buying Greenland, but his offer was rejected. Greenland is an autonomous and unspoiled massive Arctic island three times the size of Texas. It is part of Denmark with about 56,000 inhabitants.

The election served as a referendum on a 15-year-long effort by Greenland Minerals, an Australian company, to develop a mining complex at Kuannersuit, one of the world’s largest deposits of rare earth metals and uranium. The project became more controversial after a Chinese firm partly owned by the Chinese government, rare-earth giant Shenghe Resources, became the main investor.

Kuannersuit (known also by its Danish name Kvanefjeld) is located next to a fishing town in southern Greenland, where contamination fears have driven opposition to the mine. Locals worry the mine would transform the tranquil town of Narsaq into an industrial hub contaminated by radioactive dust.

Greenland’s government, led by the social democratic Siumut party, supported the project and argued it would become a windfall allowing Greenland to cut ties with Denmark and become independent. Denmark, which does not oppose Greenland’s independence, sends about $625 million in subsidies to the island, accounting for up to half of its budget.

Tuesday’s snap election was brought about by disagreements between Greenland’s politicians over the mine and accusations that it was being fast tracked without public hearings.

By backing the opposition Inuit Ataqatigiit, the mine seems doomed. The left-green Inuit Ataqatigiit campaigned against it and backs a moratorium on uranium mining. It also has pledged to join the Paris climate agreement, a move that could preclude Greenland from developing rare earth mines.

“Now it will be distinctly uphill for the large and controversial mining projects,” said Carl Bildt, the co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former Swedish prime minsiter, on Twitter.

Instead of mining, Inuit Ataqatigiit advocates fishing and tourism as the best fit for Greenland’s future development. About 90% of Greenland’s population is made up of Inuits, many of whom fish for a living.

However, Inuit Ataqatigiit has not ruled out mining in other locations. It is expected to form a coalition government with smaller parties.

Siumut won about 29% of the vote, marking a turning point in Greenland’s politics. Siumut has ruled the island almost without interruption since 1979 when Greenland’s parliament — known as the Inatsisartut — was established as part of the Danish territory’s autonomy.

In recent years, Greenland has approved numerous mining exploration licenses. Scientists say many more precious deposits are likely to become accessible as Greenland’s ice sheets recede due to global warming. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the island has the world’s largest undeveloped deposits of rare earth metals.

Left-wing party wins Greenland election, opposes big mining project

Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

April 7, 2021

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -Greenland’s left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit party pledged its opposition to a large rare earth mining project on Wednesday after winning a parliamentary election with more than a third of the votes.

The result of Tuesday’s election casts doubt on the mining complex at Kvanefjeld in the south of the Arctic island and sends a strong signal to international mining companies wanting to exploit Greenland’s vast untapped mineral resources.

Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) won 37% of votes, compared to 26% in the last election, overtaking the ruling social democratic Siumut party which secured 29% of votes, according to official results.

The pro-mining Siumut party has been in power most of the time since 1979.

Though not opposed outright to mining, IA has a strong environmental focus. It has campaigned to halt the Kvanefjeld project, which aside from rare earths including neodymium - which is used in wind turbines, electric vehicles and combat aircraft - also contains uranium.

“The people have spoken,” IA leader Mute Egede, 34, told broadcaster DR when asked about Kvanefjeld. “It won’t happen.”

Mikaa Mered, lecturer on Arctic affairs at HEC business school in Paris, said of the outcome: “This will without doubt hamper mining development in Greenland.”

While most Greenlanders see mining as an important path towards independence, the Kvanefjeld mine has been a contention point for years, sowing deep divisions in the government and population over environmental concerns.

“It’s not that Greenlanders don’t want mining, but they don’t want dirty mining,” Mered said, referring to uranium and rare earth projects. “Greenlanders are sending a strong message that for them it’s not worth sacrificing the environment to achieve independence and economic development.”


The island of 56,000 people, which former U.S. President Donald Trump offered to buy in 2019, is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but has broad autonomy.

Egede will be first to try to form a new government. A potential government ally could be Naleraq, an independence party that also opposes the Kvanefjeld project.

Support from Prime Minister Kim Kielsen and his governing Siumut party helped license-holder Greenland Minerals gain preliminary approval for the project last year, paving the way for a public hearing.

The Australian firm has already spent more than $100 million preparing the mine and has proven processing technology through its Chinese partner Shenghe Resources. Neither immediately replied to requests for comment.

“The challenge for IA will be to explain to the world that Greenland is still open for business and still an attractive mining jurisdiction,” said Dwayne Menezes, head of London-based think-tank Polar Research and Policy Initiative.


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