|Development of alternatives:||In interviews conducted with local residents, suggested alternatives to the mining project included the expansion of the tourism sector, agriculture, fisheries and fish processing . However, interviews also showed the reluctance of local residents to invest in developing these alternative initiatives as long as there was uncertainty around the outcome of the mining project .|
In a joint press release published by environmental organisation ‘NOAH’, a speaker for the organisation ‘Sustainable Energy’ (‘Vedvarende Energy’) highlighted that alternative mining projects would be possible in nearby locations such as Killavaat Alannguat/Kringlerne . Here REE deposits have also been discovered and could be extracted without uranium as a bi-product and the consequent risk of nuclear waste pollution .
|Briefly explain:||An evaluation of the EJ issues in the case of the Kuannersuit project must be understood in light of the country’s socio-economic background, and more specifically with an understanding of the community in Narsaq. There are differing voices in the debate on natural resource extraction in Greenland, creating what Hansen et al. (2013) have described as environmental and ethical dilemmas . Many business leaders, politicians and Greenlanders view natural resource extraction and mining activities as a means to boost economic activity and create employment . With more and more young people emigrating from the island in search of further education or employment and Greenland seeking greater financial independence from Denmark, mineral exploitation is regarded as a way to help mitigate these issues and this has become one of the dominant if not the most dominant discourse around mining [2, 17]. The Greenlandic government is therefore actively encouraging new large-scale mining projects , of which the Kuannersuit REE-Uranium project has become one of the most divisive mining projects in Greenland to date. However, the ability to gain financial independence from Denmark on the basis of mining has also been questioned given the size of Danish subsidies, emphasising the continued importance of the fishing, hunting and agricultural industries . In Narsaq, the town is experiencing increased emigration, and there is a general consensus from residents both opposing and supporting the project that something needs to change in order for the town to ‘survive’ [16, 17]. With both support and opposition existing among locals living close to the proposed project site in Narsaq , it is therefore difficult to evaluate what outcome would be considered a success for the community. One survey conducted by WWF found that 53% of survey participants from the Southern Greenland region supported uranium mining in general . However, on the basis of one survey referring to uranium mining generally and not specifically interviewing local residents, these results cannot be held equivalent to opinions on the Kuannersuit project. Many local residents of Narsaq and nearby areas have mobilised against the project in demonstrations and signed petitions faced with the risk of nuclear pollution (see account of mobilisations above). It is important to note that local residents opposing the Kuannersuit project are not necessarily against mining in general, as the debate around Kuannersuit is highly focused on the question of uranium . However, central to the debate around the controversial project has been the question of whether public consultation has been adequate [26, 27]. The view that public consultation needs to be improved in the environmental and social impact assessments is shared by local residents in Narsaq and nearby Qaqortoq both in favour and opposed to the project . The lack of appropriate public consultation and engagement is a clear issue of procedural injustice and improvements are being demanded by local populations not only in the Kuannersuit project but also in other mining projects across the country [16, 18, 26, 38]. The short public consultation period and bias of information sessions regarding the project as well as the lack of transparency on issues of compensation are amongst some of the issues that are being raised. Furthermore, fieldwork conducted by Hansen and Johnstone (2019) in southern Greenland shows how some local residents in Narsaq felt that the debate around the Kuannersuit project was being directed by strong external actors and polarised between international environmental NGOs on the one side and the mining company on the other . Interviews with local residents conducted by Bjørst (2016) also pointed to two dominant discourses around this project; on the one hand the mining sector ‘saving’ the community (creating jobs etc.) and benefiting Greenlandic economy, and on the other NGOs arguing that the project will ‘destroy’ the community and environment . They consequently felt marginalised in these competing agendas, which points to serious limitations in procedural justice. In addition to this, there have been calls from environmental organisations and the Greenlandic party IA to hold a referendum on uranium mining, but so far these have not been met . Altogether, these issues indicate serious EJ concerns and point to the project so far being an EJ defeat. |
From the perspective of environmental organisations Urani Naamik (No to Uranium, Greenland), NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark), Avataq, ‘Det Økologiske Råd’ (The Ecological Council), ‘Vedvarende Energy’ (‘Sustainable Energy’), Nuup Kangerluata Ikinngutai (‘Friends of Nuuk Fjord’), the political party IA, local residents in opposition and sheepfarmers - who have shown opposition to the Kuannersuit project on environmental justice grounds - the approval of the Kuannersuit project would likely be deemed an EJ defeat. However, it remains to be seen what the outcome of the project will be given that GML’s extraction license is currently being processed by Naalakkersuisut (status 15/10/19).