Mining, China central issues in Greenland election

Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:11pm EDT
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By Alistair Scrutton

NUUK (Reuters) - Voters in Greenland's capital will stream into the town's one polling station on Tuesday in a national parliamentary election in which mining, Chinese influence and the environment are core issues.

With sea ice thawing and new shipping routes opening in the Arctic, the former Cold War ally of the West has emerged from isolation as a geopolitical interest for governments seeking a share of untapped minerals and potential offshore oil and gas.

Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist, who in his youth hunted whales with a hand-held harpoon, has opened up Greenland to investors over the last four years.

The capital Nuuk has an art cinema, sushi bars, Thai restaurants and gleaming new office towers alongside older, grey Soviet-style housing estates.

Many of the 57,000 mostly Inuit inhabitants dotted along remote coastal towns and villages fear change has come too fast. Ice floes often are so thin that hunters can no longer use dog sledges.

And miners exploiting Greenland's resources may employ more foreigners than locals.

Revenues from mining may help wean self-governing Greenland off Denmark's roughly $600 million annual grant and lead to eventual independence. But they also bring worries of environmental damage to traditional hunting and fishing.

The main opposition leader Aleqa Hammond, who lost her father when young after he fell through ice on a hunting trip, has promised more taxes or royalties on foreign mining companies.   Continued...

A party worker sets up a campaign poster in the centre of Nuuk, March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Alistair Scrutton (GREENLAND - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)