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The tiny population of Greenland has sent a powerful message to China and a host of global mining companies eager to tap the territory’s resources: Not so fast.
Greenland has been getting more attention from resource companies, as global warming opens up sea lanes and makes accessible its vast potential riches of iron ore, gold, uranium and oil. In recent years, the region has been visited by energy and mining companies eager to exploit these resources – including Calgary-based Husky Energy Inc., which holds exploration rights off the island’s west coast.
China has taken a particular interest: One of the few mining projects under way is a $2.3-billion mine led by Britain’s London Mining PLC that would send 15 million metric tons of iron ore to China annually.
But in elections Tuesday, Greenlanders made it clear they have become wary of the foreign invasion. Voters turfed out a coalition government led by Kuupik Kleist, who had been opening the island up to offshore investment. Mr. Kleist had issued roughly 140 exploration licences and introduced legislation to make it easier for foreign workers to come to Greenland. That law was seen by many as clearing the way for up to 2,000 Chinese workers to help build the iron ore mine.
Opposition leader Aleqa Hammond, who heads social democratic party called Siumut, won 42 per cent of the vote and 14 seats in Greenland’s 31-seat parliament. Ms. Hammond is expected to form a coalition within a few days, making her the first female Prime Minister of Greenland, which has semi-autonomous status within the kingdom of Denmark.
Her party campaigned on a platform of slowing down resource development. She plans to scrap the foreign worker legislation, hold public consultations on resource development, and introduce a system of royalties on resource companies.
“We are welcoming companies and countries that are interested in investing in Greenland,” Ms. Hammond told Reuters after the election results were announced early Wednesday morning. “At the same time, we have to be aware of the consequences as a people. … Greenland should work with countries that have the same values as we have, on how human rights should be respected. We are not giving up our values for investors’ sake.”
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