NUUK, Greenland, March 12 (UPI) -- Development of Greenland's mineral riches is the critical issue in Tuesday's parliamentary elections, observers say.
Voters are choosing between Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist from the left wing Inuit Community Party and Aleqa Hammond, leader of the opposition Social Democrat Party, the EUobserver reported. Kleist has been prime minister for four years, and critics say he has been too ready to sign deals with foreign companies.
Greenland has a total population of 57,000, most of Inuit descent and mostly living on the southwest coast. Climate change has sparked interest in Greenland as melting glaciers make more mineral deposits accessible and warming seas make shipping in the Arctic easier.
Maalia Lynge Christiansen, a Greenlander from Nuuk now studying in Aalborg, Denmark, said there is a lot of concern about mining.
"The people that I know seemed to be evenly divided about development," she told the Copenhagen Post. "Now that it seems pretty clear that some kind of development is going to happen, the debate has shifted to what will be the best way to do it."
Greenland, long a Danish colony, is now semi-autonomous, and many Greenlanders would like to become completely independent.
The prospect of mining development is attracting the attention of many world leaders, with recent visitors including the president of South Korea. Kleist in the past year has met former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was a guest at a state dinner for the president of China in Copenhagen.