Copenhagen (AFP) - Greenland awarded Thursday its first big mining exploitation license, approving an iron extraction project by British company London Mining, and lifted a ban on exploiting uranium.
"This is indeed a historic moment for Greenland," Greenland's Industry and Minerals Minister Jens-Erik Kirkegaard said of the license.
Kirkegaard called it "the largest commercial project to date in Greenland", and said the agreement would affect employment and state revenue in a very positive direction.
London Mining said in a statement that the government of the island has granted them a 30-year license to exploit an iron deposit located 150 kilometres (95 miles) from the capital Nuuk, which should produce 15 million tonnes per year.
Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, expects its mineral resources to boost the economy, which currently depends on fishing and Danish subsidies.
Meanwhile, parliament revoked a ban that had existed since 1988 on exploiting uranium, by 16 votes to 12 with one abstention.
During a speech in Iceland on October 12, Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond said Greenland had the potential to become one of the top 10, or even top five exporters of uranium in the world.
The Social Democrats won the last general election in March on a promise to obtain revenues from foreign companies interested in the island's resources.
Isolation and weak infrastructure had kept investors away, despite Greenland's natural underground wealth, recently rendered more accessible thanks to global warming and the resulting ice retreat.
The company plans to build the mining site in three years with up to 3,000 workers, the equivalent of more than five percent of Greenland's population of 56,000.
The majority of these workers will most likely be Chinese, according to a London Mining statement from 2010 saying that "the involvement of Chinese groups is anticipated to deliver significant cost savings".
The company estimates exploitation of the deposit will support 810 jobs, some 55 percent out of which could be Greenlandic.