These are external links and will open mining a new window Close share panel Greenland’s economy relies on fishing and hunting, but the government has ambitious plans to develop the country’s resource industries. In places like Narsaq, there’s a fear that mining could destroy the environment and traditional ways of life. Jens Erik Kirkegaard looks out across the jobs black water of Kangerluarsuk fjord to the snow dusted mountain rising steeply from the far shore.
It’s a clear, cold day at the beginning of winter, and Greenland’s mining minister has his hands stuffed deep in a pair of seal-fur mittens to keep them warm. Standing by his side is a man with a white beard, wearing a battered red felt hat. Greg Barnes is chief geologist for Australian mining company Tanbreez Mining, and he’s brought the minister here to pitch his plan to turn the mountain they’re looking at into a mine. China dominates world jobs, but if people like Greg Barnes are right, Greenland has the potential to be a major player.
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It’s not just rare-earth minerals – Greenland also has reserves of gold, iron-ore, rubies and uranium, as well as oil and gas. Image caption On an overcast day, there’s not a single speck of colour on the fjords And it could bring full independence from former colonial master Denmark, which still provides a substantial annual subsidy for Greenland’s budget.
Greenland – at a glance An autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government Fishing is a key economic activity Danish grants make up the bulk of Greenland’s revenues There are fears that the ice sheet is melting at an increasing rate as the world warms Social problems include high levels of unemployment and alcoholism “It gives you some thought that you’ve mining walking on billions of dollars all jobs life and not knowing about it,” Kierkegaard says.
Nestled at the foot of a mountain where two fjords meet, it’s a picturesque town of brightly coloured houses like Lego bricks greenland amongst the snow. Like much of Greenland, it has traditionally made its living from fishing and hunting, and also more recently farming for lamb.
But at the town slaughterhouse, manager Henning Sonderup tells me that traditional way of life no longer pays the bills. Sonderup feels that unemployment and a lack of opportunities leads to social problems – “people drinking beer, some going around just like mining with nothing to do”.
Image caption ‘We want a new school’ Susanne Lynge is another who thinks the town is in a downward spiral. I will be sad to see this town be destroyed Ivalo Lund, Head nurse at Narsaq’s Hospital She’s leading a loud protest in the snow outside the town council offices, shouting slogans into a megaphone while dozens of school children cheer in response.
They wave colourful signs calling for the council to speed up construction of a new school. Unlike the Jobs mine, Kvanefjeld will produce uranium, fluoride and thorium as well as rare-earth minerals. Image caption greenland mining is starting here in Narsaq, we will be moving away,’ Avaaraq Olsen The mine’s mining received a major boost in October greenland Greenland’s parliament voted by 15 votes to 14 to overturn a long-standing greenland on uranium mining.
There are more legal hurdles to be overcome before uranium mining is a reality in Greenland, but the vote triggered huge debate in Greenland and much concern in Narsaq. Sitting in her kitchen, she remembers the day the ban was overturned. If this mine is starting here in Narsaq, we will be moving away, not just from Narsaq, but from Greenland. These environmental concerns are shared by other hunters and fishermen, and many of the 50 or so sheep farms in the surrounding area.