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Global warming for a wealthier Greenland

World economy | By Annelien De Greef | For a long time, prawns were all that Greenland was famous for. However, the melting ice caps mean that natural resources are there for the taking. This development is both a curse and a blessing and one that puts the Danes in a difficult situation.

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The latest joke among Greenland’s inhabitants is that the name of their capital, Nuuk, sounds extremely similar to the English word “nuke”, meaning nuclear warhead. After all it would appear that Greenland, and therefore Denmark as well, will soon become one of the most important players in the world of uranium.

This is an idea that is giving a lot of people in the north the creeps. People have known for years that Greenland has rich uranium deposits. Not only did it seem almost impossible to access them, they were also regarded as the forbidden fruit. Denmark has pursued a zero tolerance nuclear policy for a quarter of a century. Now Copenhagen is making a political U-turn. The Danish head of Greenpeace, Flarup Christensen, referred to the development as “the ultimate hypocrisy”, reminding them: “We forced Sweden to close a nuclear power plant because it was too close to Danish soil.”

What has happened? “A crucial element is that, in 2009, Greenland acquired greater autonomy to manage its natural resources itself”, explains Cindy Vestergaard of the Danish Institute for International Studies during a telephone call from Copenhagen. Greater autonomy also means an end to the millions that flow annually from Copenhagen to Nuuk. It is difficult to live from prawns alone. That is why uranium has become so interesting.

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