Greenland is betting that rising mineral production will help cushion the impact of global warming on its fishing industry and boost economic growth in the Arctic island-nation as its pursues independence from Denmark.
“In the past we’ve relied mainly on fisheries which made the economy very fragile,” Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond told reporters in Copenhagen today. “We need another way to stabilize the economy, and that will be mining. There’s really no alternative to that.”
The 58,000 inhabitants of Greenland, the world’s most scarcely-populated nation, are trying to attract offshore funds to develop its energy and mineral resources as changes to global weather systems disrupt fishing patterns and threaten its main source of income. The country’s $2.1 billion economy, which gets about half its exports from shrimp, is also propped up by about $600 million in subsidies from Denmark.
“Foreign interest in Greenland based on mineral exploration has exploded and we can take advantage of that,” Hammond said. “Before our contact with the outside world was based on whales and seals and what we ate. Today, it’s based on minerals and the consequences of climate change.”
Greenland, which has reserves of gold, platinum and uranium as well as other basic metals, has attracted interest from miners in China and Australia amid a renewed drive for independence after almost 200 years of Danish colonial rule.
The island nation’s government expects to award exploration licenses this year to companies including London Mining Plc, which is seeking funding for the $2 billion Isua iron-ore project north of the capital Nuuk.
The project, which is currently subject to a public hearing, has been estimated to contain more than 4 billion tons of ore, enough for “several hundred years of production,” according to a report last year from Greenland’s mineral agency.
While Hammond said she wants Greenland to eventually break away from Denmark, that won’t happen before the country has developed its mining industry, she said. “I expect it to happen in my lifetime, but I’m only 47 and that’s no age.”