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Oil & Minerals
Oil in Greenland

Off-shore oil? Forget about it

A veteran of Greenlandic politics defies his party’s line and comes out against off-shore drilling
Oil & Minerals
Off-shore oil? Forget about it (Photo: Katherine Kruse)

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One of Greenland’s leading political voices of the past 40 years has gone against the country’s elected leadership and suggested that off-shore drilling not be permitted.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the West Nordic Council in Aasiaat, Greenland, on Saturday, Lars-Emil Johansen, who is currently speaker of Inatsisartut, the national legislature, and who led the country as premier from 1991 to 1997, said a moratorium would protect the region’s fisheries.

“It is very important that we take care of our marine environment and natural resources,” Johansen, who also serves as vice-chair of the council, said on the sidelines of the conference. “We are too dependent on our sea and living resources to gamble with the next generation’s future. They too must live off the prawns, whales, seals, crabs and fish.”

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Johansen called on Iceland and the Faroe Islands, the council’s other two members, to support the ban. He pointed to the sensitivity of Arctic Ocean wildlife to environmental pollution and the length of time if would take for marine life to recover from an oil spill as arguments in favour of holding off on maritime drilling. Instead Johanesen said the three countries should focus on on-shore mineral and oil activities.

Like Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland are hopeful that oil can be found in their continental shelf, and representatives from both countries attending the meeting brushed aside Johansen’s suggestion.

“We cannot definitively say ‘no’ to off-shore drilling. We are a small country, so our only option is off-shore exploration,” said Jørgen Niclasen, the Faroese finance minister. “But of course, the closer you come to the Arctic, the more careful you should be.

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, the Icelandic environment and natural resources minister, also confirmed that his country would continue its off-shore oil exploration activities as planned.