Danish autonomous territory Greenland elects its new Parliament on Tuesday in early elections triggered by a controversial mining project that divides the region, the subject of growing foreign appetite against a backdrop of climate change .
On this huge island where 5 6,000 people live and around 40,000 can vote, the two main parties are debating the authorization of a rare earth and uranium mining project in Kuannersuit , in the south of the country.
Among the project’s supporters is the Siumut Social Democratic Party , which is currently in power but does not start as a favorite. From the party, mining is seen as an important resource for a small economy that is still largely dependent on subsidies from Denmark , the country to which they belong. Siumut has been in power for four decades virtually uninterruptedly, but the polls give him 23% of the vote , a 4-point decline.
On the other hand, the left – wing and environmental Inuit Party (IA) and which the polls give as the winner , considers that the project is a threat to the extraordinary and fragile local environment , already faced with the specter of accelerated climate change . The formation leads the polls with 36% intention to vote , ten percentage points more than in the previous 2018 elections.
The wealth of the territory
Seven formations are vying for 31 seats in the local Parliament, the Intsisartut , in these elections. The results will be known Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. While Greenlandic political life has not aroused great passions since autonomy in 1979 , the island’s geographical situation poses a real challenge for the great powers, as was clear in 2019 when then-US President Donald Trump offered to buy it , or with the growing arctic ambitions of Russia and China .
Although Greenland is not for sale , the local government tries to attract foreign investors , a key element in the face of possible independence . Greenland has had jurisdiction over its mineral resources since 2009.
A year later, the Australian group of Chinese capital Greenland Minerals obtained an exploration license for the Kuannarsuit deposits, but still lacks an authorization from the local and national authorities . In February, the issue of the exploitation of these deposits caused a political crisis that led to the early calling of elections for the departure from the Government of a small party allied to the Simiut.
In addition to mining, the electoral campaign also focused on fishing , which constitutes the island’s most important economic sector , social issues and cultural identity , at a time when youth are recovering Inuit customs and questioning the colonial heritage Danish.
The outcome of the elections remains uncertain, according to political scientist Rasmus Leander Nielsen of the University of Greenland , as it is highly unlikely that a party will win an absolute majority . “The most likely scenario is that AI teams up with one or two small parties,” he says.
The Inuit Party is in favor of a moratorium on uranium that would de facto suspend the authorization to exploit the deposit , considered one of the most important in the world in terms of rare earths.
For Erik Jensen , president of Siumut , mining “would mean a lot for the development of the Greenland economy ” by allowing him to diversify his income. Copenhagen assures that it is not opposed to independence, but fully emancipating itself would deprive Greenland of generous Danish subsidies , more than 520 million euros a year , that is, a third of its budget .
The development of tourism or agriculture in the extreme south are part of the ideas of development of a territory that obtains 90% of its income from exports from fishing . “Lastingly exploiting living resources such as fishing will be the best long-term solution for Greenland, because all marine resources are under pressure in the rest of the world,” estimates Minik Rosing , professor of geobiology at the University of Copenhagen .
According to Marc Jacobsen , an Arctic specialist at the University of Cambridge , Greenland was one of the few territories not to sign the Paris agreement on climate change with the aim of preserving potential mineral extraction projects . “Signing it would not allow them to develop any large mining project,” he explains.
And yet, since the 1990s , climate change has been twice as rapid in the North Pole as in other parts of the globe, affecting the traditional way of life of the Inuit , who make up more than 90% of the Greenlandic population , by make hunting more difficult. If it prevails in the elections, the Inuit Party promised to sign the agreement.