How China’s Belt and Road and an Australian mining company could be the deciding issues in the Greenland election
By Mary Kay Magistad
06 March 2021
Stretching like a frozen white ocean, Greenland’s ice sheet has long helped stabilise the global climate. It’s a third the size of Australia and more than two kilometres thick. But waterfalls now gush in the summer from melting ice, feeding yellow wildflowers and wild thyme, as climate change accelerates. Greenland has just experienced its two hottest summers on record. During the summer thaw, the odd stray polar bear has ventured off the ice sheet, looking for food. “Climate change is also changing how we live,” Greenland’s finance minister Vittus Qujaukitsoq said. “Traditional hunters are finding it harder to make a living, and smaller communities are having a hard time surviving, so more people are moving to larger communities,” he said.
Large is all relative in Greenland.
Just under 60,000 people live on the island, which is 80 per cent covered by the ice sheet. Greenland’s largest town and capital, Nuuk, has a population of about 18,000 people. Greenland’s government has, in recent years, looked for ways to draw in new investment, to boost economic growth, and improve education, quality of life and job prospects for Greenlanders, most of whom are Inuit. That has included annual trips to China to promote investment in Greenland, in fisheries, mines and more — and China is interested.
A proposed rare earth mine, which if approved will be the world’s second largest, is shaping up as the nation’s potential answer.