As Greenland prepares to enter an era of large-scale mining projects, including the extraction of uranium – a bill that would greatly reduce the ability of citizens to voice concerns about such projects, and limit access to information about mines by journalists, environmentalists and ordinary citizens is making its way through Greenland’s parliament.
As the law is currently written, it is only after the government has already approved a project that information or documents would be available for inspection. The bill also deprives citizens of the right of appeal against government decisions about mining.
The bill has been criticised by citizens, environmental organisations and Greenland’s opposition party IA.
"If we shut down civil society and others' opportunity to go in and assess whether what is being done is good enough, it is a major weakening of our system," said Sara Olsvig (IA) to Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Osvig is one of the two Greenlandic members of the Danish Parliament.
The government’s argument that they are attempting to streamline the procedure has met with heavy scepticism.
But the argument is, according to the head of the University of Greenland Klaus Georg Hansen, not sufficiently strong.
“It takes a long time to process requests for access, but they must be tackled with extra staff,” Hansen said. “Otherwise, it looks like an attempt to keep people out of these potentially controversial decisions.”
Mining minister Jens-Erik Kirkegaard has previously said in a statement that he does not believe that the bill restricts public access.
Greenland’s Ombudsman Vera Lethbridge has asked the Ministry for clarification.