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GREENLAND

Greenland seeks tourists, investors with new airports

Greenland's parliament has adopted a plan to upgrade or build airports to serve the massive North Atlantic island, keen to attract more tourists to its pristine Arctic wilderness.

Greenland seeks tourists, investors with new airports
File photo: Bjarne Lüthcke/Ritzau Scanpix

Two airports — in the capital Nuuk and in the tourism centre Ilulissat — will be substantially upgraded, making it possible to fly directly to Greenland from Europe and North America.

A new national airport will be built in Qaqortoq in the south.

Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory. The plans have been controversial because of Copenhagen's direct financial involvement.

The project is estimated to cost at least 3.6 billion kroner (482 million euros).

Almost 20 percent of the financing will be provided by Denmark, which contributes 3.6 billion kroner to the island's annual budget.

Parliament adopted the proposal late Thursday with 18 out of 29 votes.

In September, the project plunged Greenland into a three-week political crisis, with an independent supporting party quitting the government coalition in protest against Denmark's involvement.

The social democratic Siumut party, which has dominated Greenland politics for four decades, was ultimately able to cling to power with a new, narrower majority.

“We are creating lots of opportunities for Greenland's future. We are not selling out,” Prime Minister Kim Kielsen insisted in parliament's debate, local television KNR reported.

The three airports will serve the main population centres of the island, which is home to 55,000 people spread out across an area more than four times the size of France.

Smaller communities have meanwhile complained they will remain isolated.

In addition, “other risks have also been raised, like the reaffirmed presence of the US military, which not everyone sees as a positive thing, and the environmental risks brought on by better international connections,” Mikaa Mered, a professor of Arctic geopolitics at the ILERI School of International Relations in Paris, told AFP.

Since 2009, Greenland has been largely independent when it comes to its economic policy but foreign and defense issues remain under Copenhagen's control.

“The big winner in this affair is Copenhagen. Both on the political, economic and geopolitical levels, Copenhagen is strengthening its positions across the board, vis-a-vis China and the triangular alliance with Washington,” Mered said, referring to Beijing's eagerness to invest in the Arctic which has raised concern in the US.

Construction of the airports is scheduled to be completed by 2023.

READ ALSO: Crater bigger than Paris is discovered under Greenland ice

ENVIRONMENT

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.

READ ALSO: Greenland seabed scoured for marine diamonds

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