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Global Mining Industry Closely Monitors Greenland's Election

NOEL KING, HOST:

Greenland is holding a crucial election today. The results could speed its path to independence from Denmark. Here's Sidsel Overgaard.

SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: When Aili Liimakka Laue looks out the window of her home in the town of Narsaq, the elementary school teacher can see the mountain called Kuannersuit, or Kvanefjeld as it's known in Danish. Laue moved here a year ago, but neighbors tell her that one of these slopes used to be the greenest around - good for grazing sheep. Then the test drilling began.

AILI LIIMAKKA LAUE: Now that area is like all sand and just black, and there's no green at all.

OVERGAARD: Kuannersuit contains a lot of uranium, as well as one of the world's largest deposits of rare Earth minerals - necessary components in things like electric cars and wind turbines.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Kvanefjeld will make the world greener.

OVERGAARD: A promotional video by the mining company suggests that in addition to supporting a green economy, the mine would provide an economic boost to Greenland.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Kvanefjeld can secure tax revenues of 1.5 billion kroner a year for decades.

OVERGAARD: The current ruling party, which supports the mine, says that could provide a faster path to independence from Denmark. But Laue isn't buying it. She points out that the mining company involved is Australian backed by Chinese investors. And she says there's a word for this - neocolonialism.

LAUE: It's actually very, very simple. It's the control of less-developed countries by developed countries through indirect means. And it's going on all over the world.

OVERGAARD: Although Greenlanders support mining in general, a new poll shows that a majority have concerns about the Kuannersuit mine. And that could lead to a victory today for the opposition party, IA, which has campaigned to stop the project. At the same time, says Rasmus Leander Nielsen with the University of Greenland, IA has said it wants to leave the door open to other mining endeavors.

RASMUS LEANDER NIELSEN: The difficult part is after the election to convince other projects that they're still open for business.

OVERGAARD: But back in Narsaq, Laue is hoping her neighbors will agree that independence is not worth the price of destroying the environment.

LAUE: Staying here, it won't even be an option. I mean, we're not going to be able to live here at all.

OVERGAARD: For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard in Denmark.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERIK WOLLO'S "SEAFARERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.