On an Arctic island with some of the world’s largest supplies of rare-earth elements, a heated debate about mining and its environmental costs will have big consequences for global superpowers
Elections in Greenland rarely get much notice beyond the shores of the ice-covered island. But when Greenland’s 41,000 voters head to the polls on April 6 in a snap election, the results will be followed closely in Beijing, Washington, Brussels and beyond.
Greenland has been caught in a global power struggle over access to rare earth metals, a collection of 17 elements with names such as yttrium, scandium and lanthanum that are used in more than 200 products, including cellphones, wind turbines, electric cars and fighter jets.
The island is home to some of the world’s largest deposits of rare earths, and a massive mining project in south Greenland has become a focal point in the race to secure the strategic resource.
The United States used to be the main producer of rare earths, but in the past 20 years, China has leaped ahead and now accounts for more than 90 per cent of global production.
The Chinese government has taken a keen interest in Greenland, and China’s Shenghe Resources is playing a key role in developing the proposed mine known as the Kvanefjeld project.
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