Greenland entered the legislative elections on Tuesday, following a campaign focused on a disputed mining project in the Danish autonomous territory, as the Arctic island faces first-hand the effects of global warming.
Greenland’s two main parties are divided over the authorization of a controversial giant uranium and rare earth mining project, which is currently the subject of public hearings.
Supporters, including the ruling Social Democratic Siumut party, say the mine would produce an economic windfall. Opponents, such as the green left-wing opposition party IA (Inuit Ataqatigiit), argue that it could harm the vast island’s unspoiled environment.
Greenland’s geostrategic location and huge mineral reserves have sparked international interest, as evidenced by former US President Donald Trump’s quickly rejected offer to buy it in 2019.
The election campaign for all 31 seats in parliament has also focused on fishing, the main engine of Greenland’s economy.
At a time when young Greenlanders are reconnecting with their Inuit roots and questioning their Danish colonial heritage, social issues and cultural identity have also been part of the debate.
People lined up when polling stations opened for the island’s roughly 40,000 voters. “I’m not going to vote like the last few times,” said Frederik Gronvold, who arrived early and said he wanted to see the development of fisheries across the country. “I am waiting for a change.”
Polling stations will close at 8 pm local time (2200 GMT), with final results expected early Wednesday.
IA leads the latest opinion polls with around 36% of voter support, while Siumut, who has been in power almost uninterruptedly since Greenland gained autonomy in 1979, trails behind with 23%.
However, experts have warned that the outcome is uncertain. Opinion polls “often put AI too high,” said University of Greenland political scientist Rasmus Leander Nielsen. “A third of the voters do not decide until the last minute.”
Neither of the two largest parties was likely to win a majority. The most likely scenario, he said, was “for AI to form a coalition with one or two smaller parties.”
IA has called for a moratorium on uranium mining, which would effectively halt the mining project.
The Kuannersuit deposit, in the south of the island, is considered one of the richest in uranium and rare earth minerals in the world, a group of 17 metals that are used as components in high-tech devices such as smartphones, flat screens , electric cars and weapons.
A poll published Monday by the daily Sermitsiaq showed that 63% of those surveyed were against the mining project, although only 29% were against mining in general.
Siumut party leader Erik Jensen has said the mine would be “very important to Greenland’s economy” as it would help diversify revenues. That is crucial if the island is to win full independence from Copenhagen one day.
Denmark, which is not opposed to Greenlandic independence, provides the island with annual subsidies of about 526 million euros (450 million pounds), which represents about a third of its budget.
Greenland plans to grow its economy by developing its fishing, mining and tourism sectors, as well as agriculture in the southern part of the island, which is ice-free throughout the year.
“Sustainable use of living natural resources, such as fish stocks, will be the longest-term method [solution] for Greenland, ”said Minik Rosing, professor of geobiology at the University of Copenhagen. The island’s mineral potential “has only been investigated to a limited extent, but not in depth.”
For Marc Jacobsen, an Arctic specialist at the University of Cambridge, keeping the option of large-scale mining open is the reason why Greenland has not signed the Paris climate agreement. The treaty allows states to decide their own measures to achieve the common goal of keeping global warming below 2 ° C.
“The signing of the Paris agreement would not allow them to develop any large mining projects,” said Jacobsen.
And yet the Arctic has been warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet since the 1990s, dramatically affecting the traditional way of life of the Inuit, who make up more than 90% of Greenland’s population. .
IA has pledged to sign the Paris agreement if it comes to power.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism