Greenland at the polls with its mining future at the heart of the debate

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Greenlanders vote Tuesday to elect their Parliament, an early poll caused by a mining project that divides the Danish autonomous territory of the Arctic, a source of growing greed against a backdrop of global warming.

The two main parties are opposed to the authorization of a mining project for rare earths and uranium under consideration for more than a decade in Kuannersuit, in the south of Greenland.

Among the supporters of the project is the Social Democratic Party Siumut, currently in power, but lagging behind in the polls. He sees the mine as an important resource for a small economy still largely dependent on subsidies from Denmark.

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party, a left-wing party with an environmentalist leanings which is leading the vote, sees the project instead as a threat to the local environment, already facing the specter of accelerated climate change.

I voted for a party that says no to uranium, Henri Jensen, a 40-year-old voter, told AFP as he left the polling station in the capital, Nuuk. Greenland has always been against uranium mining and that's why I'm voting for a party that says no to uranium, he said.

To share the 31 naturalization seats, the local Parliament, seven parties and 189 candidates are in the running.

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The 72 polling stations, some of the most northerly in the world, opened at 9 a.m. local time. After their scheduled closure at 10 p.m. GMT, the results are expected overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.

If the upheavals of the local Greenlandic political life have not always impassioned since the autonomy of 1979, Greenland is scrutinized more and more closely on the international one, evidenced by the offer of purchase by the former president. of the United States, Donald Trump, against a background of Russian and more recently Chinese positioning in the Arctic.

Supported by the Australian group – with Chinese capital – Greenland Mineras, which has held an exploration permit since 2010, the mining project in February led to the announcement of these early elections with the departure of a small party allied to Siumut.

Besides mining, the campaign also focused on fishing, which is Greenland's largest economic sector, social issues and cultural identity, as young people reconnect with Inuit culture and question the Danish colonial heritage.

An aerial view of Narsaq in Greenland.

An aerial view of the town of Narsaq in southern Greenland, which is located approximately three miles from the Kuannersuit mine site.

Photo: Greenland Minerals Ltd / Handout via REUTERS

Voting results uncertain

The political scientist at the University of Greenland, Rasmus Leander Nielsen, believes that the outcome of the vote is uncertain, although he says that "the most likely scenario is that (the Inuit party) IA allies with one or two small parties ”.

If the voters choose us, we are ready to start working from day one to build a coalition to rule the country for the next four years., Inuit Ataqatigiit party leader Mute Egede told AFP.

Its formation is in favor of a moratorium on uranium which would de facto suspend the authorization to exploit the deposit, which for some would compromise Greenland's ambitions for independence.

Denmark, which ensures that it does not want to block an independence process, pays more than 520 million euros per year to the Greenlandic government, or a third of its total budget.

If it wins the election, the IA party has also promised to sign the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few not to have ratified.

According to Cambridge University postdoctoral researcher and Arctic scientist Marc Jacobsen, signing it would not allow them to develop any major mining project.

The Siumut party has been in power almost uninterrupted for four decades.

Since the 1990s, global warming has been twice as rapid in the Arctic as elsewhere on the globe and has disrupted the traditional lifestyles of the Inuit, who constitute more than 90% of the Greenlandic population, in particular by making hunting more difficult.

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