Greenland votes to allow uranium, rare earths mining
ReutersNUUK, Greenland--Greenland's parliament voted on Thursday to end a decades-long prohibition on mining for radioactive materials like uranium, further opening up the country to investors from Australia to China eager to tap its vast mineral resources.
October 26, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
The move will not only allow the mining of uranium deposits, but also of rare earths, minerals used in 21st century products from wind turbines to hybrid cars and smart phones and that are currently mostly extracted by China.
With sea ice thawing and new Arctic shipping routes opening, the former Cold War ally of the West has emerged from isolation and gained geopolitical attention from the likes of Beijing and Brussels thanks to its untapped mineral wealth.
“We cannot live with unemployment and cost of living increases while our economy is at a standstill. It is therefore necessary that we eliminate zero tolerance towards uranium now,” Greenland Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond was quoted as saying by local newspaper Sermitsiaq during the debate.
Hammond's government won the heated debate by 15-14 votes.
The possibility of uranium mining has been criticized by environmental groups. Earlier, a group of nongovernmental organizations warned uranium mining in Greenland could threaten the Arctic region's pristine ecological system.
While Greenland is self governing, it is still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. The former colonial ruler still has a say in security and defense issues and the uranium decision may need to be approved by the Danish parliament — possibly putting the two nations on a diplomatic collision course.
“Concrete actions on the mining and export of uranium will potentially have far-reaching implications for foreign, defense and security policies and are as such a matter for the Kingdom,” Denmark's Minister for Trade and European affairs said in a statement after the vote in Greenland's parliament.