COPENHAGEN – Greenland has called for a parliamentary election in March that could have implications for mining exploration in the resource-rich country, as the main opposition party threatens to revoke a bill allowing for cheap foreign labour.
Greenland - a quarter of the size of the United States but home to just 57 000 people - passed a bill in December that set out a framework for foreign mining and exploration companies to explore the natural resources of the island and open the market up for cheaper labour.
But some say the law paves the way for companies to employ foreign workers on lower pay than they would give Greenlandic employees.
Aleqa Hammond, opposition leader for the social democratic Siumut party which holds nine of the 31 seats in parliament, plans to tear up the law if her party wins the election.
"I think that it is very important that we have a bill that is protecting us as a small people", she told Reuters by phone.
She fears that the new law would lead to "social dumping" and that Greenlanders could become a minority in their own country.
"Big companies will take advantage of our small work force and demand new prices, of course, because they want as big profits as possible," she said.
Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist called late on Thursday for the vote to be held on March 12, ahead of the June 2 deadline for the next poll.
The law is seen as important for plans for a huge iron ore mine that would lift Greenland's population by 4% at a stroke, by hiring Chinese workers.
The $2.3-billion project by the small British company London Mining would also bring diesel power plants, a road and a port near Greenland's capital Nuuk. The project, which is looking for financing from China, would ship some 15-million tonnes of iron ore annually to resource-hungry Asian nation.
Greenland has awarded about 150 licences for mineral exploration, with around $100-million spent by companies in 2011 alone. Oil companies have spent more than $1-billion so far in exploring offshore