Iqaluit: Gateway to Greenland’s resource riches – by Paul Waldie (Globe and Mail – January 19, 2012)

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Air Greenland isn’t exactly among the world’s major airlines. It only has 10 airplanes, 600 employees and one international route – to Iceland.

But when the airline announced Wednesday that it’s starting regular flights from Nuuk to Iqaluit this summer, many in the global mining community took notice. That’s because Greenland has become one of the hottest places in the world for mining and oil exploration.

Global warming, new extraction technologies and a recent move by Denmark to give the island territory autonomy over natural resources has prompted a small stampede of companies rushing to Greenland to tap into its wealth of uranium, iron ore, gold, gemstones, rare earths and offshore oil.

“Over the past few years, we’ve just seen a growing demand for this service,” Christian Keldsen, an Air Greenland spokesman said from Nuuk. “There is a lot of exploration going on.”

Iqaluit made sense as the launching point for North America, he added, because it’s relatively close to Greenland and shares cultural and educational ties with Nuuk. There used to be flights between the two communities back in the 1990s, but they were not sustainable, Mr. Keldsen said. Now, with all the exploration and mining activity under way in Greenland, Air Greenland saw an opportunity – especially since many companies have been chartering aircraft to make the trip.

The Dash-8 service will be co-ordinated with arrivals in Iqaluit from Ottawa and other Canadian cities to ensure smooth connections for business people. For now, the flight, which takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes, will run twice a week from June to September and cost about $1,500 return. Air Greenland is considering extending the service later into the year and adding more cities.

“I think it’s marvellous,” said Nicholas Houghton, chief executive officer of Vancouver-based True North Gems Inc., which is developing a ruby mine in Greenland. “It shows they are open for business.”

Mr. Houghton travels to Greenland up to four times a year and he usually has to fly through Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which can take more than two days. He has also hired planes in Iqaluit to make the trip.

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