No economic independence for Greenland in sight

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Greenland's mineral wealth is unlikely to help it achieve economic independence from Denmark, the dream of many Inuits on the Arctic island, according to an independent report released Friday.

The 13-member panel of Nordic academics that compiled the report concluded that Greenland's minerals and offshore oil could help the sparsely populated island develop but not end its economic dependency on Denmark.

"Even though natural resource exploitation will become important for Greenland, it is not enough," said Minik Rosing, a Copenhagen university professor who headed the panel. Rosing said there are six known mineral deposits on the island, but the goal of having several large mines operational by 2040 is "unrealistic." None of the infrastructure, work force or legislation needed for large mines is in place. The report also said the current known mineral resource deposits are not large enough to serve as the country's sole source of income.

Only one company, Scotland-based Cairn Energy, has drilled off Greenland in recent years, but it found no commercial quantities of oil and gas. Greenland's 57,000 residents are concentrated on the west coast in small cities or remote coastal settlements where life revolves around fishing and hunting of seals and whales.

Many island residents would like to achieve complete autonomy, and see the resources as a way to reduce dependency on a subsidy from Denmark, which now accounts for about two-thirds of the island's economy. The rest comes from fishery and tourism.

Premier Aleqa Hammond, 49, whose center-left government coalition came to power in 2013, has said she expected an independent Greenland during her lifetime. The report, however, said semi-autonomous Greenland would continue to rely on Denmark's financial handouts, which amounted to 3.3 billion kroner ($602 million) in 2013.

Last year, Greenland removed a 25-year-old ban on uranium mining since the element is often found mixed with other rare earth metals used for smartphones and weapons systems. A southern Greenland mine could be the largest rare-earth metals deposit outside China, which currently accounts for more than 90 percent of global production.

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