Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

READ ALSO: Greenland seabed scoured for marine diamonds

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France plans 70% ‘supertax’ on fuel for private jets

France is set to dramatically increase taxes on fuel for private jets, as the government rejects a proposal from environmentalist and left-wing senators to ban short flights altogether.

France plans 70% 'supertax' on fuel for private jets

Last year, environmentalist senators proposed a bill planning flights by private jet if the journey can be made by train in less than two-and-a-half hours – bringing private flights into line with commercial ones in France;.

At the same time MPs from the far-left La France Insoumise party, sitting in France’s Assemblée nationale, had filed a bill to ban the use of all private jets in France, calling it “an urgent ecological measure”. 

READ ALSO French politicians step up bids to crack down on private jets

Rather than go down the all-out ban route, the 2023 Budget bill includes provisions for a 70 percent increase in fuel tax for private aviation from 2024, Minister of Transport Clément Beaune told MPs in the Assembly during a debate on the pollution caused by private jets.

And he promised further action may be possible as soon as 2024.

Beaune has made no secret of his opposition to a total or partial ban on private jet flights, despite admitting that some examples – such as football club Paris Saint-Germain using a private flight to Nantes, which is a two-and-a-half-hour train ride from the capital – were “shocking, often out of place, sometimes unacceptable”.

He went on: “I announce to you, we will go further if you agree in the budget for 2024 by proposing that private commercial aviation (…) may be subject to an additional contribution, an eco-contribution revised upwards, which will allow us to precisely take into account these behaviours,” continued the minister.

“The general ban is good for the conscience but does not advance ecological transition in practice,” Beaune said , stressing the “legal obstacles” and the difficulty of defining and controlling exemptions. 

Environmentalists proposed to ban “non-scheduled air transport services of passengers not subject to commercial operation”, as well as non-scheduled public air transport services “in which the number of passengers is less than 60”.

MP Julien Bayou said: “It is the measure that penalises the fewest people but produces the maximum effect for the climate and the atmosphere,” he said.