Greenland to revise polemic mining law

Greenland’s parliament is set to discuss once again a contentious mining law passed in December last year, which relaxes regulations for resource companies to establish mines and other raw materials operations in the self-governing territory.

The ruling’s most controversial point is the one that allows miners with projects valued at roughly $1 billion (more than 5 billion kroner) to enter into agreements with foreign trade unions, which opponents say it would likely lead to bringing underpaid foreign labour, a practice known as "social dumping," The Copenhagen Post reports.

Law supporters claim the island could become the world’s top rare earth producer if it wasn’t because of the tight restrictions the government has on the exploitation of its natural resources. They argue Greenland, with a population of only 55,000, would benefit from foreign workers, as there are simply not enough nationals able to help developing mines in the country.

A new version of the current mining legislation would include concessions to the unions on holiday and disability pay. It would also strengthen requirements to hire locals whenever possible make companies pay foreigners at least the equivalent of Greenland’s minimum wage.

According to European Commission data, Greenland has "especially strong potential in six of the fourteen elements on the EU critical raw materials list."

In recent years, mining companies have tried tapping into Greenland’s treasure-trove of raw materials, which include rare earths, iron ore, gold, uranium and rubies. There is also evidence to indicate it sits on some of the world’s largest untapped oil reserves.

A former Danish colony, Greenland was granted home rule in 1979 and, 30 years later, it assumed self-determination with responsibility for judicial affairs, police, and natural resources. However, the Danish government is still in charge of foreign affairs, financial policy and security.

Image: View over the old cryolite mine in Ivittuut, Greenland by Vincent van Zeijst/Wikimedia Commons