Mineral Rush in Greenland; Independence May be Around the Corner
Greenland is an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish government had ruled over it until 1979 when the island was granted home rule. However, the Danes still control Greenland’s foreign affairs, defense, police, justice system, and financial policy. Recently, however, Greenland has been courted by multinational companies and foreign leaders looking to exploit its rare minerals and potential oil reserves. The new attention brought to the island is leading Greenland's premier, Kuupik Kleist, to seriously consider moving toward full independence.
Denmark currently provides their Arctic territory of 57,000 people with an annual subsidy of 3.4 billion crowns ($560 million). If Greenland can raise that much money on their own through mineral extractions, they would have little reason to continue as a Danish territory. The melting ice is starting to make these resources more accessible. Plus, supplies are shrinking and demand is rising, making these harder to reach places more economically viable.
"I think it opens many doors for the country," said Nukaaka Fleischer Hansen, a young Greenlander who works at the Ministry for Industry and Mineral Resources. "The outside world doesn't know much about Greenland. I used to study in Norway, and many of them knew nothing about Greenland, which made me sad. It's a beautiful country and it has many opportunities."
The minerals believed to be in Greenland include diamonds, gold, copper, platinum, uranium, aluminum, titanium, and other rare earth metals. Mining exploration is currently at its infant phase, and many more mines are likely to be found.
Foreigners are already beginning to knock at the doors. Within the last couple months, the Greenland premier has met with some geopolitical heavy hitters, including the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and representatives from the Chinese government.
With talk of independence swirling around comes other important considerations. The island nation is located in a strategic area at the edge of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, particularly as the Arctic ice continues to melt. A self-defense force would need to be created. Greenland may actually look to join the European Union to provide an economic and defense safety net.
It may also be possible they would look towards just the Nordic states of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Or perhaps, they could be swayed to work more with their North American partners, Canada and the US, possibly joining NAFTA. Then of course there is Denmark itself, who may not be so happy about parting ways with her territory just as its vast resources become realized. It will be very interesting how everything plays out.
Research on potential Greenland independence and its role in the Artic has been published by Damien Degeorges, associated researcher to the University of Greenland. His report titled "The Role of Greenland in the Artic" can be found here: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/irsem/publications/laboratoire/laboratoire-de-l-irsem-n-7-2012
Greenland image via Shutterstock