Oil riches for Greenland?

Residual anger over Greenpeace’s

Not much happens in Aasiaat and that’s the way the residents of this sleepy town in the west of Greenland like it.

Fishing for shrimps and halibut, hunting for reindeer, and whale watching from the outer edge of the shores of the archipelago, the circle of life is simple here.

For weeks now there has been a quiet sense of anticipation in the air, its 3,000 residents are waiting for what could be some extraordinary news.

In August, Cairn Energy, a Scottish petrochemicals company, said it had found traces of a natural gas in one of its test wells.

Those traces indicate there could be oil, potentially millions of barrels of hydrocarbons under the seabed.

All of this is happening just 150km off Aassiaat’s shores, and Cairn is using the town as a base for its activities.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace are alarmed by the prospect of an oil rush in one of the most pristine natural sites in the world.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza has taken those concerns further, there’s been a stand-off with the Danish navy near Cairn’s oil platforms.

For locals, feelings towards Greenpeace and the oil explorers are mixed. For now, the history of anger towards Greenpeace seems stronger than the fear of an environmental disaster.

It was Greenpeace that helped stop the trade of sealskin, something Greenlanders have never forgiven.

Arnanguak K Stork works as a guidance counsellor at one of the local schools, she approaches us suspiciously, asking if “we are from Greenpeace?”

Clearly angry, she told us members of Greenpeace are telling youngsters in town not to eat whale or seal, food the Inuits have lived off for hundreds of years.

She’s worried about the impact of future drilling, but doesn’t want to hear the Greenpeace message.

True or not, the damage has clearly been done, and Cairn Energy is receiving a warmer welcome than environmentalists who say they are trying to avoid another Gulf of Mexico type disaster.

Peter Lynge runs a carpentry business in town, a larger than life character he has his finger on the town’s pulse.

I ask him why people don’t seem that concerned, his answer is simple, “because it is for the greater good”.
It’s impossible to predict how much money this oil bonanza could bring to Greenland, which depends on an annual $500m grant from Denmark.

These new found riches could transform the economy and bring the independence that many here long for.

Some fear instead of relying on the Danish state, Greenland could end up relying on the oil companies.

Aqqaluk Lynge, from the Inuit Circumpolar Council, fears the worst. He says the influx of foreign companies and workers could mean “we risk being a minority in our own country”.

“One thing is for sure, yes Greenland has a chance to be rich, it’s something that is essential for the people of Greenland to discuss and then decide if we want forced industrialisation,” Lynge says.

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