Inuit plan Arctic-wide oil, gas, mineral summit
“All eyes are on Greenland right now”
Inuit from around the circumpolar world will soon hold a summit in either Nuuk or Iqaluit to discuss Arctic oil, gas and mineral development, Aqqaluk Lynge, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, said Sept. 22.
Lynge, who in the past has expressed grave reservations about oil and gas development, said Inuit from Canada, Alaska, Russia and Greenland urgently need to discuss their experiences with resource development.
“We cannot move forward without co-operating and learning from each other. And Greenland needs to learn from Alaska — maybe how not to do it,” Lynge said.
ICC’s new executive members will set the date and location of the summit when they meet in Nuuk next week, Lynge said.
The idea of an Inuit oil and gas summit, first brought up at the ICC general assembly in July, follows the Sept. 21 announcement by Cairn Energy that one of their drill holes off western Greenland has turned up oil.
“All eyes are on Greenland right now,” Lynge said. “It is a big challenge to deal with.”
Nunavut which shares the waters of Davis Strait and Baffin Bay with Greenland, also has a direct interest in the issue.
To better manage a possible “black rush” on Arctic oil and gas resources, Lynge said he wants to ensure any development respects the rights of Inuit.
Everyone in Greenland is looking forward to the money and the better prospects, which could flow from oil development or gold, uranium and rare mineral mines, he said.
But Lynge isn’t convinced that this industrialization will better the lives of Greenlanders.
“I don’t see any happy people around the world who are living on the riches of oil, that is a fact. Why should oil give us happiness in life? Only the prospect of money is a blessing — the worst nightmare is the scenarios that we have to look into,” Lynge said
Among his concerns: Greenland only has a workforce of 30,000, while 10,000 to 50,000 workers may be needed if oil development takes off.
This could see Greenlandic Inuit becoming a minority in their own land, Lynge said
So what Lynge favours is a cautious, careful approach to development that “includes the human dimension.”
To that end, Lynge wants the issue to get more public debate, which the Greenland government, led by his former ICC colleague and Inuit Ataqatigiit party member, Kuupik Kleist also supports.
“We really need a democratic infrastructure in Greenland,” Lynge said. “These are not in place.”
And he’d also like to see a closer look at the kind of technology used in offshore oil exploration in the Arctic, to avoid disasters like the blow-out of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer.
Cairn also announced this past August it had also found gas in another drill hole — another positive sign that oil may be in the vicinity.
But while Cairn’s intial results are “encouraging,” according to the Greenland government, no one knows if they have commercial potential.
Experts estimate there could be as much as 20 billion barrels of oil off Greenland, which has led Kleist to tout Greenland as a future Saudi Arabia.
Next week’s ICC executive meeting in Nuuk will be the first the organization has held since its general assembly this past July.