COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – A left-wing party opposed to a large-scale mining project has become the largest in parliament after securing more than a third of the vote in a quick election.
The result of Tuesday’s election raises doubts about the mining complex at Kvanefjeld on the southern part of the Arctic island and sends a strong signal to international mining companies that want to exploit Greenland̵
The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won 37% of the vote compared to 26% in the last election four years ago and took over the ruling Social Democrat Siumut party, which secured 29% of the vote according to official results.
The mining Siumut party has been in power most of the time since 1979.
Although IA is not directly against mining, IA has a strong environmental focus. It has fought to stop the Kvanefjeld project, which apart from rare earths, including neodymium – which is used in wind turbines, electric cars and fighter jets – also contains uranium.
“This will undoubtedly hamper the development of mining in Greenland,” said Mikaa Mered, associate professor of Arctic affairs at the HEC business school in Paris.
While most Greenlanders see mining as an important path to independence, the Kvanefjeld mine has been a point of contention for years and has sown deep divisions in the government and the population over environmental concerns.
“It’s not that Greenlanders do not want mining, but they do not want dirty mining,” Mered said, referring to uranium and rare earth projects. “Greenlanders send a strong message that it is not worth sacrificing the environment for them to achieve independence and economic development.”
The island with 56,000 people, which the former US President Donald Trump offered to buy in 2019, is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but has broad autonomy.
IA leader Mute Egede, 34, will be the 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 ruling Siumut party helped licensee Greenland Minerals obtain preliminary approval for the project last year and paved the way for a public consultation.
The Australian company has already spent more than $ 100 million preparing the mine and has tested treatment technology through its Chinese partner Shenghe Resources.
“The challenge for IA will be to explain to the world that Greenland is still open for business and still an attractive mining industry,” said Dwayne Menezes, head of the London-based think tank Polar Research and Policy Initiative.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing Andrew Heavens and Timothy Heritage