Greenland calls election after government breaks up

Greenland Prime Minister Kim Kielsen speaks to media in Reykjavik in 2019. Kielsen’s ruling coalition collapsed Tuesday because of a dispute over a rare earths mine at Kvanefjeld. (Egill Bjarnason/AP)
Greenland’s government called a national election Tuesday after parliament threatened it with a no-confidence vote, just over a week after a junior party left the ruling coalition in a dispute over a mining project.

The world’s largest non-continental island is home to just 56,000 people and is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. It enjoys broad autonomy, but leaves foreign, monetary and defence policy to Copenhagen.

The main governing Siumut party has been riven by a dispute over Kvanefjeld, a rare earth and uranium open-pit mining project that has been running for almost 15 years.

Citing that dispute, the Democrats left the coalition on Feb. 8, leaving the government short of a parliamentary majority.

“The parliamentary term is over. It is premature due to various circumstances. But we must look ahead and we must prepare for more unity in this country,” Prime Minister Kim Kielsen told parliament, according to local broadcaster KNR.

The election has been scheduled for April 6.

Kvanefjeld mine has created controversy

While most Greenlanders see mining as an important path toward independence, the Kvanefjeld mine has been a contention point for years, sowing deep divisions in the government and population over environmental concerns.

The project, which is partly owned by Chinese Shenghe Resources, is licensed to Australian Greenland Minerals, whose shares have dropped almost 60 per cent in recent weeks as the political row over the mine has deepened.

According to a January survey, opposition party Inuit Ataqatigiit , which is opposed to the mining project, has become the largest party since the last election in 2018, and is set to win 13 out of 31 seats in parliament, over Siumut’s nine.

Siumut has been out of government once since 1979.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada outlines which Indigenous businesses benefit from $5M funding in the North, CBC News

Finland: Miners hunting for metals to battery cars threaten Finland’s Sámi reindeer herders’ homeland, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: The Arctic railway – Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russian Indigenous groups call on Elon Musk to boycott company behind Arctic environmental disasters, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sami in Sweden start work on structure of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

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