Minerals won’t buy Greenland independence, experts say


In a new report published on Friday (24 January), 13 Nordic experts affirm that the minerals found in Greenland won't be enough to grant the country economic independence from Denmark.

According to the report, the profits Greenland can expect from exploiting its mines have been significantly overrated, and the country will depend on Denmark's annual subsidy of 3.4 billion Danish crowns (€457 million) for at least another 25 years.

During the past couple of years, the Greenlandic and Danish governments have been discussing how the country can exploit its natural resources such as uranium and possibly oil, something that could eventually lead to the Arctic country's independence.

But according to the experts, Greenland would need around 24 large-scale mines costing around €670 million each to match its current level of spending as a welfare state. As Greenland currently only has two mines and as commodity prices have fallen over the past years, experts say it is "unrealistic" that the country can survive solely on its mines.

"There is nothing that implies that minerals can finance economic independence for Greenland in the coming years," Minik Rossing, geology professor at Copenhagen University and chairman of the expert group, told the newspaper Politiken.

Lars Hovbakke Sørensen, a professor at Copenhagen University, told the news agency Ritzau that the report will be received with "frustration" in Greenland where the debate on minerals has captured the public's attention.

Greenland's 48-year-old Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond has previously stated that she wishes to see a free and independent Greenland in her lifetime, partly thanks to the greater autonomy expected from the exploitation of minerals.

Greenland is a self-ruled territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The world's second largest island after Australia, it is about half of the size of the EU.

Around 57,000 people live in Greenland, making it the least densely populated country in the world. Only 44 politicians are in charge of the country, including ministers, MPs and mayors.

Greenland was granted home rule in 1979, but the Danish government is still in charge of foreign affairs, financial policy and security - including defence, police and justice. Denmark provides a subsidy of 3.4 billion Danish crowns (€457 million) per year.

Greenland joined the European Common Market along with Denmark in 1972, but left the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1985 over the bloc's commercial fishing regulations and ban on seal skin products.

  • 1 Feb. 2014: Deadline to apply for drilling license in Greenland for 2014.
  • End 2014: Denmark and Greenland to publish plan for uranium extraction in Greenland.

Subscribe to our newsletters