Inuit summit needed to discuss Arctic drilling

A summit of Inuit leaders focussing on resource development in the Arctic is urgently needed, according to the conclusions of the 11th Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) conference in Greenland. The meeting wrapped up on Friday in Nuuk after 65 Inuit delegates spent five days in Greenland’s capital discussing issues of mutual concern. Subjects on the table included offshore gas and oil drilling and uranium development.

Inuit representatives from Russia, Canada, Alaska and Greenland passed the Nuuk Declaration during the course of the conference, which will call on member nations of the Arctic Council to commit to the forum. President and chair of the ICC, Akkaluk Lynge, said he was concerned that Inuit were not included in recent discussions between the governments of the five countries (Canada, Russia, the USA, Norway and Denmark) that border the Arctic Ocean.

“We are the only ones that are living in the Arctic, in the Arctic coastal areas,” Lynge said in a report by CBC News. “No one else does, except for oil explorers and mineral resources developers. We are staying there the whole winter.”

President of Canada’s Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami organisation, Mary Simon, said that although ICC members have historically opposed offshore drilling in the region, their position has softened over time. Scotland’s Cairn Energy has just begun drilling the first of four planned wells in the Davis Strait between Greenland and Baffin Island, and a review of a proposed uranium mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, is also under review.

“Twenty years ago, all the delegates at the ICC said there would be no uranium mining, but in recent decades, change has come fast to the Arctic,” said Simon.

Some delegates are still, however, concerned about the critical issue of how drilling will affect the region’s people and wildlife, while others feel it can only bring prosperity. The proposed Inuit summit, planned for sometime within the next year, would deal with such issues, according to the ICC.

“One thing we can agree upon is that the Arctic and the Inuit need economic development in every sense,” said Greenland Premier Kuupik Kliest in the CBC article.

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