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Greenland lawmakers reject gloomy independence outlook

Government already planning for diversified economic development, minerals minister says
No matter how you look at it, mining will have a positive effect, according to Kirkegaard (Photo: Leiff Josefsen)

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Greenland’s political leaders remain upbeat about the country’s chances of obtaining its independence from Denmark, despite the pessimistic conclusions of an expert report released today.

The report, published by the universities of Greenland and Copenhagen, suggested that even with the most optimistic predictions for the country’s nascent mining industry, Greenland would remain financially dependent on Denmark for the foreseeable future.

The response from both sides of the political aisle in Nuuk has been that Greenland has long known that it needed to develop the diversified economy the report suggests.

SEE RELATED: “Not enough” minerals in Greenland to fund independence: report

Greenland, according to Jens-Erik Kirkegaard, the industry and minerals minister, has already identified four areas of economic development. He admitted mining would be the most important, but said the other three – fishing, tourism and “other land-based activity” – would also make significant contributions.

“If predictions hold, and if the economy develops at the rate we expect, then I think there are good chances of us being independent within a few years,” he said.

According to the report, the income from 24 so-called large-scale mines – those costing over 5 billion Danish kroner ($920 million) to build – would be necessary for Greenland to compensate for the 3 billion kroner block grant it receives from Copenhagen each year.

That was a conclusion Kirkegaard disputed. He pointed to predictions that a planned iron mine near Nuuk alone would contribute 2 billion kroner a year to the country’s economy over the next 30 years in the form of taxes and indirect economic impacts.

“No matter how you look at it, the figures show that mining can have an enormously positive effect on Greenland’s economy,” he said. “It’s not unrealistic that five years from now we could have as many as six mines in operation.”

Opposition agrees
Sara Olsvig, a member of the Danish and Greenlandic parliaments for IA, an opposition party, also agreed with the report’s conclusion that Greenland needed a diversified economy. Like Kirkegaard, she too disagreed with the assessment that independence was out of the country’s financial grasp.

“The report just shows that we need to another look at our options for developing our economy,” she told news website Sermitsiaq.AG.