Greenland votes in rare earth mining election

Itilleq, Grønland. (Foto: David Stanley, Flickr)
Inuit Ataqatigiit has called for a moratorium on uranium mining, which would effectively put a halt to the mining project. (Photo: David Stanley, Flickr)
Two main parties are divided over a giant project that would dig for uranium and other minerals.

As The Guardian reports, Greenland went into legislative elections on Tuesday, after a campaign focused on a disputed mining project in the autonomous Danish territory.

Greenland’s two main parties are divided on whether to authorise a controversial giant rare earth and uranium mining project, which is currently the subject of public hearings.

Supporters, including the ruling social democratic Siumut party, say the mine would yield an economic windfall. Opponents, such as the opposition left-green IA (Inuit Ataqatigiit) party, argue it could harm the vast island’s unspoilt environment.

Greenland’s geostrategic location and massive mineral reserves have raised international interest. The election campaign for parliament’s 31 seats has also centred on fishing, the main driver of Greenland’s economy.

Social issues and cultural identity have also been part of the debate.

People lined up as polling stations opened for the island’s roughly 40,000 voters. The final results expected early on Wednesday.

IA is leading in the latest opinion polls with about 36% of voter support, while Siumut, which has been in almost uninterrupted power since Greenland gained autonomy in 1979, is trailing with 23%.

However, experts have warned the outcome is uncertain. Opinion polls “often put IA way too high”, the University of Greenland political scientist Rasmus Leander Nielsen said. “A third of voters don’t make up their minds until the last minute.”

Nor was it likely that either of the two biggest parties would get a majority. The most likely scenario, he said, was “that IA forms a coalition with one or two smaller parties”.

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