COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AFP) – Greenland’s parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.
The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.
The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.
On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against.
The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.
The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.
But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.
The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres (772,200 square miles), making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.
The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.
While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.
Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.
© Agence France-Presse