Denmark asks US to put the brakes on Thule bid

Responding to pressure from parliament, Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard is now trying to suspend a process that controversially awarded a lucrative contract at the Thule Air Base to an American firm.

Denmark asks US to put the brakes on Thule bid
Maintenance and upkeep of the Thule Air Base has been under local control since the 1950s. Photo: NASA/Goddard/Christy Hansen/Flickr
Controversy surrounding the awarding of a maintenance contract for the Thule Air Base in Greenland has led Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard to call on the United States to suspend the public tender process. 
Lidegaard told Finans on Thursday that he has asked the Americans to put a halt to the process. Lidegaard’s decision comes after complaints from both Greenland and Denmark that awarding the contract to an American firm would lead to a costly loss of jobs in Greenland. 
The 2.4 billion kroner ($360m) contract was awarded to Exelis Services A/S, a subsidiary owned by the US firm Vectrus. The decision to give the maintenance job to the Americans marked the first time since the 1950s that upkeep and operation of the Thule Air Base was taken out of Greenlandic or Danish control. 
Since the 1950s, the Thule contract has given a boost to the Greenlandic economy by providing jobs and valuable work training to residents, something critics fear will disappear with the US firm's takeover.
In 2013, the Danish government was warned that its agreement about control of the base might be in violation of EU law. The government then decided to put the contract up for tender and Exelis was chosen for the seven-year contract, which is supposed to begin in September. 
Lidegaard has now put the brakes on the contract after pressure from a political majority within the Danish parliament. The foreign minister told US Ambassador Rufus Gifford that Denmark wants the process suspended until it can be examined further. 
Lidegaard told Finans that he “requested that the US Air Force suspend the tender process until a solution can be found between the US, Greenland and Denmark”. 
The Foreign Ministry is now awaiting an official response from the Americans. 

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Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

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