The composition of Greenland’s ruling coalition has changed in the last few days, becoming more ideologically homogeneous (viz., homogeneously pro-independence). Their agreements, however, don’t cover the most crucial issue from the perspective of Sino-Arctic relations: the uranium-rare earth project in Kvanefjeld (Kuannersuit) in the south of the island.
As I reported a bit over a month ago, state-linked rare-earth company Shenghe 盛和 Resources agreed to buy a minority stake in GME, the Australian owner of the project, and expressed an intention to eventually increase that to a 60% stake if things go well. That remark, which I wrote after simply reading Shenghe’s Shanghai Stock Exchange announcement, generated a minor controversy after being picked up by Danish and Greenlandic media, who wondered why the 60% part was left out of GME’s own announcements. It even prompted Greenland’s ministry for natural resources to say they would ‘investigate’ and ask GME to show them the contract they signed with Shenghe, which GME declined, arguing they don’t trust the Greenlandic government’s ability to keep it confidential. (Good luck telling the Chinese gov’t you won’t show them documents because you don’t ‘trust’ them.)
Even with those disagreements, which largely boil down to poorly handled PR; the GME-Shenghe project had good chances of getting through under the previous coalition, and specifically the previous natural resources minister, who were unambiguously pro-uranium. That has changed now. The two junior parties in the current government are against uranium mining in Greenland. The coalition’s official position, if we may call it that, is now that they’ve ‘agreed to disagree’ on uranium.
The new Naalakkersuisoq (minister) of natural resources, Múte Bourup Egede, is himself from the anti-uranium Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party, and is “against uranium mining,” in so many words. His ministry will have to review GME-Shenghe’s application for a production license, expected to be submitted as early as this year. He says he can’t anticipate what the decision will be like before seeing the application, and that it will be made based on the natural resources law and after ‘listening to the people’. It’s early to tell; pro-uranium forces could prevail and let the project go ahead. The current coalition setup and portfolio allocation could also be shorter-lived than the application process (Múte is the fourth minister in charge of natural resources in just over a year).
GME are optimistic, though. Their ASX-listed shares fell 20% in the days following the coalition shakeup (but are still well above the price one month ago, and almost twice what Shenghe agreed to buy them at), after which they stated they’re happy with the new Große Koalition and praised their plans for the mining sector without mentioning the explicit disagreement over their project.
Meanwhile in China, another Greenland minister, Vittus Qujaukitsoq, whose portfolio includes commerce, energy and foreign affairs, is leading a delegation in a week-long visit. Compared to his previous Chinese visits, this one seems to show increased emphasis on the seafood and sealskin industries over mining. The trip includes stops in Qingdao and Chongqing.