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Universities to assess Greenland gold, rare-earths

As a political debate over Greenland's minerals heats up, universities are to peaceably help find out who should get the automonous island's natural resources, and how

Denmark’s and Greenland’s politicians have agreed to let universities work out how they best should share Greenland’s wealth, reports

A University of Copenhagen and University of Greenland committee will assess the value of Greenland’s geological resources, and examine the best ways utilise them. It hopes to find out how Greenland’s minerals can be extracted, while upholding Danish-Greenlandic relations, and boosting Greenland’s jobs and growth. The project is backed by Greenland’s premier, Kuupik Kleist, and Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Greenland has since 2009 had sole rights over its natural resources, while the Danish government retains control over its foreign policy, police force, and justice system. Denmark dispenses a DKK 3.4 billion annual subsidy to Greenland, accounting for 56 per cent of Greenland’s government revenue. The subsidy is slated to gradually diminish, as Greenland’s economy strengthens. Greenland’s resources include hydro-electric power potential, olivine sands, gold, rare-earth minerals, and hydrocarbons.

Sustainable development

“I think it is important that the extraction of raw materials does not lead to a break-up between Denmark and Greenland… The commission will look at how best to exploit the vast potential that lies in the Greenland underground, so that both countries can benefit from it”, says chairman of the newly formed committee, geology professor Minik Rosing on (needs login).

The committee will publish its report by the end of 2013, and hopes to spark broad and open public debate about Denmark’s relationship with Greenland. Committee chairman Rosing underlined the importance of creating common enthusiasm for the utilisation of Greenlandic resources in a way which benefits both countries, culturally and economically.

“Greenland and Denmark have historically had a very close relationship and the University of Copenhagen has been sending faculty to conduct research in Greenland for more than 100 years. We have had researchers stationed at the Arctic Station, climatologists studying the ice cap, and the University of Copenhagen offers a programme in Eskimology and Arctic Studies. The joint committee will be able to gather the necessary knowledge to ensure that Greenland’s resources are developed as sustainably as possible and return the maximum yield for future generations,” says University of Copenhagen Rector Ralf Hemmingsen.

Taking Danish interests into consideration

University of Greenland’s rector, Tine Pars wants all stakeholders’ interests to be evaluated.

“The extraction of Greenland’s underground resources affects many different interests. Only by collaborating between universities and cultures are we sure to develop a sufficient insight into these interests,” Pars says to

A majority of Danes support the 2009 self-rule agreement, which gives Greenland control over its natural resources: according to a new Rambøll/Analyse poll, 70 per cent of Danes agree with the terms of the agreement, while only 22 per cent disagree. The poll comes as a surprise to members of right-wing, nationalist Danish People’s Party, with a spokesman for the party believing Danes are “furious” over giving up rights to Greenlandic resources.

“I don’t know if voters are aware that Denmark will continue to pay billions of kroner in grants and subsidies to Greenland over the next years, while the country earns billions from its precious materials project,” he said, as re-quoted in news service

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