‹ Minerals

Greenland opens up for cheap labour

December 21, 2012

In a historic vote, Greenlanders passed a bill setting the framework for foreign mining and exploration companies to take advantage of the natural resources of Greenland and opening up for cheaper labour, including staff from China.

The legislation defines the size of what is determined a large scale project and regulates minimum salary levels for foreign workers. All parties except the biggest opposition party, which abstained and said the bill needed more work, voted in favour of the legislation.

A spokesperson at British company London Mining, which plans a large iron-ore mine near the capital of Nuuk, said the company was pleased with the bill.He said the new legislation sets the minimum hourly wage for foreign workers in large scale projects at 80.40 Danish crowns, less than what most Greenlandic workers earned. London Mining’s $2.3-billion project stands to increase Greenland’s population by 4% by hiring Chinese workers and would supply China with iron.

Greenland has awarded overall some 150 licences for mineral exploration compared with only a handful in existence a decade ago, with around $100-million spent by companies last year alone.

China is one of the countries with the biggest interests in Greenland’s minerals. China’s interest in Greenland, a self-ruling overseas territory, is closely linked to the country’s significant deposits of oil, gas, copper, iron, gold and rare earths.


Greenland, like other northern jurisdictions, wants economic development to occur. China, with its huge appetite for resources (consumes 40% of the world’s metals), fits the bill.

Interestingly, a Chinese mining company, HD Mining, is embroiled in a controversial plan to hire 201 Chinese workers at a proposed mine in northern British Columbia (near Tumbler Ridge). The labour movement has sought a court injunction to prevent the company from bringing in the workers from China on the grounds that Canadian workers can do the work. The company has responded by saying the mining techniques are new and specialized and that the right workers could not be found.