The general election in Greenland that took place in April 2021 resulted in the country’s left-wing environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit winning a victory in its campaign against the development of a contentious rare earths mine project run by Australia-based company, Greenland Minerals, with backing from China. The rare earths mine, called the Kvanefjeld project, wasn’t approved yet by the Greenland government, but test drilling had begun.

The rare earth mineral deposits in the country, including neodymium, cerium, and lanthanum, have become more accessible after Greenland’s ice cap melted recently, an event attributed to climate change. The mining process for this area would also extract and produce radioactive uranium as a by-product, a point of contention amongst environmental groups. Siumut, the opposition party to the Inuit Ataqatigiit, repealed the law that banned the extraction of radioactive minerals in 2013. According to Greenland Minerals, the mine has the “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths.” Proponents of the project have noted that the mining project would be an economic boon for the small country of about 57,000 residents and would help the country gain independence from Denmark.

The election results mean that the Siumut, a party in power since the 1970s, will no longer be able to propel the mine forward, with party leaders acknowledging the mining project’s role in the election defeat to the Inuit Ataqatigiit. For now, the mining operation will not go forward based on the recent vote and lack of environmentally safe mining methods for the ecologically fragile area, according to environmental groups. (6-21)