The University of Greenland/Illsimatusarfik and the University of Copenhagen have agreed to set up a joint committee to determine how best Greenland's mineral resources can benefit the country. Greenland's premier, Kuupik Kleist, and the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, support the initiative.
The committee will examine Greenland's opportunities for exploiting its mineral resources and how they can create value for Greenland through, for example, economic growth and employment. The committee will also study how mining, oil drilling and other large-scale raw materials projects can be undertaken as sustainably as possible and with as little impact as possible on the environment or the people of Greenland.
"Greenland and Denmark have historically had a very close relationship and the University of Copenhagen has been sending faculty to conduct research in Greenland for more than 100 years. We have had researchers stationed at the Arctic Station, climatologists studying the ice cap, and the University of Copenhagen offers a programme in Eskimology and Arctic Studies. The joint committee will be able to gather the necessary knowledge to ensure that Greenland's resources are developed as sustainably as possible and return the maximum yield for future generations," says University of Copenhagen Rector Ralf Hemmingsen.
Denmark's Interest in Greenland's mineral resources started as early as 1878 when a commission was established to undertake geological and geographic studies in Greenland. Their study quickly developed into a forum for Danish and Greenlandic scholars to study everything from natural phenomena to Arctic languages, anthropology, culture and history.
With the decision to grant Greenland Home Rule status in 1979, Denmark has gradually reduced its involvement in the country's affairs. But the importance of maintaining a strong relationship was demonstrated after Greenland, now with Self-Rule status and even more autonomy from Copenhagen, drafted legislation that would make it easier for foreign companies to set up operations in Greenland.
"The extraction of Greenland's underground resources affects many different interests. Only by collaborating between universities and cultures are we sure to develop a sufficient insight into these interests," says Illsimatusarfik Rector Tine Pars.
Professor Minik Rosing, from the University of Copenhagen, often collaborates with Illsimatusarfik faculty and will chair the commission. As a geologist he drew international attention when he uncovered some of the world's oldest rocks at a site north-east of Nuuk.
Ilisimatusarfik Rector Tine Pars
In all, the committee will be made up of nine members, all of whom will be experts in their field and hand selected by the two rectors.
The committee will examine the potential for extracting Greenland's resources and make recommendations for specific measures that Greenlandic and Danish interests can take. These could consist of initiatives to ensure that Greenland benefits to the greatest extent possible from investments in developing its geological resources.
The committee's findings will be presented by the end of this year in the hopes that they can form the basis for a public debate. The commission will be jointly administered by Illsimatusarfik and the University of Copenhagen.
Professor of Geology
Natural History Museum of Denmark
Phone: +45 51 50 60 68
Head of administration, the University of Copenhagen
Phone: +45 30 50 51 31
Objectives of the committee
The committee's tasks will be to identify:
- What practical potential there is in exploiting Greenland's oil, gas, hydropower and fresh water, measured against the needs for investment and labour and the possible environmental consequences.
- Different models for securing the necessary investment, including the potential of Danish/Greenlandic capital as well possible investment from other countries in the Nordic region and Europe.
- Different experiences with contractual and legal frameworks to control foreign-financed mining operations in other highly-developed countries such as Norway, Canada and Australia.
- How other countries have regulated large-scale raw materials projects and their efforts to avoid unwanted demographic, political and environmental consequences.
- How different types of resource extraction and their financing can create value in Greenland and Denmark through commercial opportunities, education, research, tax income and the creation of infrastructure.