As Greenland’s ice continues to melt at a record pace, locals are divided over the prospect of new mining opportunities. Several communities in the southern region of the Danish-governed landmass have seen fishing industries dwindle dramatically in recent years due to warming waters, prompting huge reductions in local populations and harsh economic conditions in small communities.
Meanwhile, experts say that Greenland is home to the largest deposit of rare earth minerals in the world, and that the ice melt has made way for unprecedented interest in the region’s controversial mining industry.
Rare earths are crucial for electronics manufacturing, with China currently the world’s biggest buyer.
According to union leader Vittus Qujaukitsoq, cashing in on the lucrative mineral market could finally give Greenland independence from Denmark and could eliminate its need to rely on annual welfare payments from Copenhagen, which currently total nearly EUR 400 million a year.
Likewise, Ole Christiansen, chief executive of Greenland’s biggest mining firm NunaMinerals, told the Brisbane Times, “For me, I wouldn’t mind if the whole ice cap disappears. As it melts, we’re seeing new places with very attractive geology.”
However, many see mining as a threat the current way of life as well as to the region’s abundant wildlife. Guesthouse owner Dorothea Rodgaard said, “Of course the mine will help the local economy and will help Greenland, but I’m not so sure if it will be good for us. We are worried about the loss of nature,” the Brisbane times reports.
Similarly, Jens Frederiksen, Greenland’s housing and infrastructure minister, expressed mixed emotions about the situation: ”I think mining will be the future, but this is a difficult phase. It’s a plan that not everyone wants. It’s about traditions, the freedom of a boat and family professions.”