Greenland rare earths: No special favours for EU

image captionUummannaq, Greenland: The vast territory is believed to be rich in minerals

The prime minister of Greenland says he will not favour the EU over China or other investors when granting access to highly prized rare earth minerals.

Kuupik Kleist said it would not be fair "to protect others' interests more than protecting, for instance, China's".

Greenland, a vast autonomous Danish territory, is not in the EU, even though Denmark is.

The EU, US and Japan are in dispute with China over its restrictions on exports of rare earths.

China currently produces 97% of the world's rare earths, vital in the manufacture of mobile phones and other high-tech products.

The dispute has gone to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Last year China argued that its export restrictions were needed to protect the environment, conserve supplies and meet domestic demand.

Currently Greenland's rare earth resources are being intensively investigated. The European Commission estimates that those resources could total 9.16% of the global rare earth deposits.

"All are welcome if they meet our conditions and our requirements to operate in Greenland," Mr Kleist said.

The EU sees "especially strong potential" in Greenland's deposits of niobium, platinum, rare earths and tantalum, among the elements on an EU "critical raw materials" list.

Most of Greenland is covered by an ice cap, but the acceleration of Arctic melting is making it easier to tap the territory's resources. It is the world's largest island but has a population of only 57,000, many of whom live in poverty.

Yet there are fears that reckless exploitation of Greenland's minerals could endanger the pristine Arctic environment.

The share of European exploration companies operating in Greenland is only 15%. More than 50% are from Canada and Australia.

Mr Kleist, speaking in the Danish capital Copenhagen, said Greenland needed to develop its resources, as it was too reliant on fishing and subsidies from Denmark.

"I do not see thousands of Chinese workers in the country as a threat," he said, quoted by Denmark's Ritzau news agency.

He vowed to resist EU pressure concerning Greenland's policy on rare earths.

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