Science

Greenland at the polls with its mining future under debate – France 24

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Nuuk (AFP)

The Greenlanders elect their Parliament on Tuesday, an early poll caused by a mining project that divides the Danish autonomous territory of the Arctic, a source of growing greed against a background of global warming.

In the immense arctic island with only 56,000 inhabitants and nearly 40,000 voters, the two main parties oppose the authorization of a project for a rare earth and uranium mine in project for more than a decade in Kuannersuit , at the southern tip.

Its supporters, including the ruling Social Democratic Siumut party, which lags behind in the polls, see the mine as an important resource for a small economy still largely dependent on subsidies from Denmark.

For its opponents, including the Inuit party (Inuit Ataqatigiit, IA), a leftist party with an environmentalist tendency leading the voting intentions, it is a threat to the sublime and fragile local environment, already facing the specter of climate change. accelerated.

If the turmoil in local Greenlandic political life has not always fascinated since the autonomy of 1979, Greenland is being scrutinized more and more internationally, as evidenced by the offer to purchase by President Trump in 2019. , against a background of Russian and more recently Chinese positioning in the Arctic.

– Not to sell –

Both Copenhagen and Nuuk have made it clear that the land is not for sale, but the local government is looking to attract international investors, showcasing its proven or hoped-for natural resources.

Supported by the Australian group – with Chinese capital – Greenland Minerals, which has held an exploration permit since 2010, the Kuannarsuit project in February led to the announcement of these early elections with the departure of a small party allied to Simiut .

In addition to mining, the campaign also focused on fishing, which is the largest sector on the world’s largest island (excluding the mainland island of Australia), social issues and cultural identity, at a time when young people are reconnecting with Inuit culture and questioning the Danish colonial heritage.

Led by Mute Egede, a 34-year-old MP, IA leads the polls with 36% of voting intentions, a ten-point jump from the last elections in 2018. Siumut, in power almost uninterrupted for four decades, is credited with 23%, a decline of 4 points.

But the outcome of the ballot remains uncertain, according to political scientist Rasmus Leander Nielsen of the University of Greenland, especially since it is unlikely that a party will obtain an absolute majority. “The most likely scenario is that AI allies itself with one or two small parties,” he says.

The green left formation IA is in favor of a moratorium on uranium which would de facto suspend the authorization to exploit the deposit, considered one of the most important in the world for rare earths.

For Erik Jensen, president of Siumut, the mine would “have great significance for the development of the Greenlandic economy” by diversifying its income, a prerequisite for full independence in the long term vis-à-vis Copenhagen.

Denmark, which claims not to want to block an independence process, pays more than 520 million euros per year to the Greenlandic government, or a third of its total budget.

– Paris Agreement –

In addition to the exploitation of minerals, the development of tourism or agriculture in the far south are part of the development paths of a territory which still achieves 90% of its exports from fishing.

Even if the mineral potential has only been very partially explored, “sustainably exploiting living resources like fish will be the best long-term solution for Greenland, because all other marine resources around the world are under pressure” , says Minik Rosing, professor of geobiology at the University of Copenhagen.

According to Marc Jacobsen, an Arctic specialist at Cambridge University, it is to preserve possible extractive projects that Greenland is one of the few not to have signed the Paris climate agreement, which nevertheless aims to limit warming to save the poles.

“Signing it would not allow them to develop any major mining project,” he explains.

Since the 1990s, global warming has been twice as rapid in the North Pole as elsewhere and has disrupted the traditional lifestyles of the Inuit, who constitute more than 90% of the Greenlandic population, in particular by making hunting more difficult.

If it wins the election, the Inuit party has promised to sign the agreement.

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