COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – A left-wing party opposing a major rare earth mining project has become the largest in parliament after garnering more than a third of the vote in an early election.
The outcome of Tuesday’s elections casts doubt on the Kvanefjeld mining complex 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.
The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won 37% of the vote, up from 26% in the last elections four years ago, beating the ruling Social Democratic Siumut party, which won 29% of the vote, according to official results.
The pro-mining Siumut party has been in power most of the time since 1979.
Although not directly opposed to mining, IA has a strong environmental focus. He has campaigned to stop the Kvanefjeld project, which in addition to rare earths, including neodymium, which is used in wind turbines, electric vehicles and fighter jets, also contains uranium.
“This will undoubtedly hamper mining development in Greenland,” said Mikaa Mered, professor of arctic affairs at the HEC business school in Paris.
While most Greenlanders view mining as an important path to independence, the Kvanefjeld mine has been a point of contention for years, sowing deep divisions in the government and the population over environmental concerns.
“It’s not that Greenlanders don’t want mining, but they don’t want dirty mining,” Mered said, referring to the uranium and rare earth projects. “Greenlanders are sending a strong message that it is not worth sacrificing the environment for them to achieve independence and economic development.”
The island of 56,000 people, which former US President Donald Trump offered to buy in 2019, is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but has broad autonomy.
AI leader Mute Egede, 34, will be the first to attempt to form a new government. A potential ally of the government could be the Naleraq, a pro-independence party that also opposes the Kvanefjeld project.
The support of Prime Minister Kim Kielsen and his ruling party, Siumut, helped licensee Greenland Minerals obtain 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 tested the processing technology through its Chinese partner Shenghe Resources.
“The challenge for AI will be to explain to the world that Greenland is still open for business and remains an attractive mining jurisdiction,” said Dwayne Menezes, director of the London-based think tank Polar Research and Policy Initiative.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Edited by Andrew Heavens and Timothy Heritage