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Resumé af Ayoe Kristiansens speciale

Specialetitel: The Stakeholder Management Theory Meets SLO | Ilisimatusarfik, Grønlands Universitet


The thesis had the purpose to examine the two mining projects in Southern Greenland; Kuannersuit (Kvanefjeldet) and Killavaat Alannguat (Kringlerne). Moreover, to look into the importance of a Social License to Operate (SLO) and the corporation between the respective mining firms, Naalakkersuisut (the Government of Greenland) and the locals in Narsaq. Additionally, through interviews and a survey, the thesis explores what the respondents had of opinions about the two mining firms and Naalakkersuisut’s handling of these companies' mining projects. Finally, the thesis examines to which extent the possible differences between the two mining companies and if this could explain eventual differences in public attitudes towards the mining projects. 

When Greenland gained power over its rare earths and minerals in 2009, it led to an increased global focus towards Greenland`s economic potentials in its subsoil’s, and 11 years later, this led to The Greenland Mineral Strategy. This strategy stated that Greenland would aim to develop the industry of mineral resources into a leading industry and the Greenlandic government wanted to establish a more enhanced governmental framework in order to attract various mining companies to invest in Greenland (Greenland Mineral Strategy, 2020).

Vittus Qujaukitsoq, former Naalakkersuisoq (Minister) for Finance and Mineral Resources “Over the years, Greenland has seen considerable exploration activity, but there are still areas which are virtually unexplored and which can contribute to further development” (Greenland Mineral Strategy, 2020, p.2).

This strategy was, however, regulated in 2021 when Greenland had a governmental election. This resulted in a change of the main governing party, and a reinforcement of the “zero-tolerance policy” towards uranium. The Greenlandic Ministry of mineral resources explained that despite the ban, the industry of rare earths and minerals would still be ideal to diversify and increase the Greenlandic economy (govmin.gl, 2021: Greenland says yes to mining but no to uranium).

Greenlandic mining has caused several discussions in the Greenlandic population and can be traced all the way back to the possibility of economic independence from the Denmark and the Danish block grant, this makes this thesis relevant in 2022 (Knudsen & Nielsen, 2016).

The chosen subject was found highly relevant because of two main factors; The need for Greenlandic economical revenue and the development of the wellbeing of the Greenlandic people. This is based on the fact that the world wants and needs minerals, light and heavy rare earths in order to develop a greener energy source and therefore, needs to attract possible investors and mining companies to be able to explore it’s subsoils.

The interest for writing this thesis that is centered around mining in Greenland, is based on the fact that I am an Inuk living in Greenland, and have grown up with the discussion of Kuannersuit and the discussions that follows this particular subject. With the writing of this thesis, I grew an inquisitiveness for the subject and how the mining process; both governmental and in praxis, in Greenland is actually done. 

The questions for the thesis were, as follows:

What is the role of the Social License to Operate (SLO) in respect of two mining projects in South Greenland?

  1. How does the cooperation between the respective mining firms, Naalakkersuisut (the Greenlandic government), and the local citizens of Narsaq influence the decision-making regarding the licensing of different stages of the projects?
  2. What are the opinions of the people of Narsaq regarding the two mining firms, and the decision-making governed by the government of Greenland in regards to who shall, and who shall not, open their respective mining operations in Greenland?
  3. To what extent do the differences between the mining companies TANBREEZ (Killavaat Alannguat mine) and Greenland Minerals Ltd (Kuannersuit mine) explain the different attitudes the local people have towards the projects?

Methodological and theoretical basis of the thesis

In this thesis I chose to use mixed methods:

  • quantitative and qualitative methods
  • comparative case study with the model Most Similar System Design (MSSD)
  • fieldwork.

Additionally, the thesis also presents a significant empirical background section that enlightens the thesis with a historical background of Greenlandic mining related political history from the 1930s to 2021. This is where I made a two-part timeline and shortened explanation of the specific year and/or event. Followingly, it was crucial to have a brief presentation of the two mining projects in Southern Greenland, Killavaat Alannguat (Kringlerne) by TANBREEZ and Kuannersuit (Kvanefjeldet) by Greenland Minerals Ltd, in order to gain a better understanding of the governmental process of a mine in Greenland in 2021.
The research began with fieldwork in the town of Narsaq and Qaqortoq, which had the purpose for me as a researcher, to gain a more accurate picture of the chosen subject and creating a more direct interaction with the relevant stakeholders (Brinkmann & Tanggaard, 2020, p.67).

Additionally, I also use mixed methods by holding a series of semi-structures interviews (qualitative method) with experts, citizens, officials, politicians and people from an NGO organization, and a survey (quantitative method) which was presented to the public in Narsaq at a second round of a citizen meeting in the town of Narsaq (Brinkmann & Tanggaard, 2020, p. 257).
I then made use of the comparative case study-method with the MSSD model, where the two cases were the mining companies, Greenland Minerals Ltd in Narsaq, and TANBREEZ in Qaqortoq (Steinmetz, 2021, p. 176-177). This method gave me the opportunity to compare the two companies and investigate what sets the two firms apart, with help from the MSSD model. I then analyzed the results from 40 survey answers and 17 semi-structured interviews (only some of these was used in this thesis) from various relevant stakeholders, with the following theories; Social License to operate (SLO) with an explanation by Boutilier & Thompson`s Modelling and measuring The Social license to operate: Fruits of a dialogue between Theory and Practice, and Gunningham & et al’s Social license and Environmental Protection: Why businesses go beyond compliance. A  second theory was applied, Ranängen’s Stakeholder management theory meets CSR practice in Swedish mining, in order to lift the perspective of the thesis. 

The choice to include both the stakeholder theory and the SLO, was because the stakeholder theory describes the process of obtaining a SLO, and therefore was significant for the thesis to provide a fuller perspective of the chosen subject. Moreover, the theories also explained/presented a company's prioritized stakeholders and how the respondents in Narsaq were experiencing it.


The analytical part of the thesis was built as a three-step analysis. The first step of the analysis, was an overview of the two mining companies’ stakeholders with inspiration from Boliden stakeholder view 1. This was created based on the provided stakeholder logs from Greenland Minerals Ltd, interviews, and stakeholder logs from the Greenlandic Government’s website. The results showed that Greenland Minerals Ltd prioritized 11 various stakeholders, with a total of 73 meetings that have been held between 2009 and 2019, but this did not result in an exploitation license. Additionally, there is a difference in how the two mining companies had prioritized their stakeholders. Greenland Minerals Ltd had held an extensive amount of stakeholder meetings with various Greenlandic based stakeholders, including both businesses and the general public, whereas TANBREEZ has held fewer, but more concentrated stakeholder meetings (Ranängen, 2017, p. 9).

The second step of the analysis was a comparative study where I used the MSSD model with the survey results. This presented 40 answers from the general public in Narsaq, and are supported by the performed interviews from various relevant stakeholders, in order to analyze what sets the two companies apart e.g. how the respondents think and feel about the two mining companies. This step provided the thesis with the result that the locals in Narsaq are both against the Kuannersuit and the Killavaat Alannguat mining project. However, it also showed that more respondents answered “I don’t know” to the Killavaat Alannguat mine, compared to the Kuannersuit mine in terms of their opinion. The respondents who were asked about whether or not they trust the specific company, TANBREEZ again had the majority of “I don’t know” respondent answers. Moreover, none of the respondents were satisfied with the way the Greenlandic government handled either of the two mining projects. From the interview results, it was expressed that there was a wish to increase the involvement of the locals in the public hearings meetings and to make changes to the existing process.

The third step of the analysis was centralized around the use of the SLO pyramid by Boutilier & Thomson. By using the survey and interview results that was collected during my fieldwork, this gave me the necessary resource to be able to analyze where the two mining firms stood in terms of the steps of the SLO (Boutilier & Thomson, 2011, p. 2-3). This step indicated that neither of the two mining companies has a SLO, and are both on the acceptance level on the pyramid, which is a more legitimacy boundary provided by the relevant authorities. A detail to keep in mind, is that TANBREEZ has an exploitation license whereas Greenland Minerals Ltd. does not.


The thesis central findings, presents a situation where there is not an outright “black” nor “white” answer, bearing in mind that there are multiple levels of perspectives and opinions to consider which are as follows; the people who are going to live close to the mines; the mining company which shall follow governmental application process and guidelines,; and lastly the government/relevant authorities, who ultimately decide who can or cannot, open a mine in the specific geographical area.

It can be concluded that there is a certain level of cooperation between the Naalakkersuisut and the respective mining firms because the mining firms are required to follow a given set of guidelines. However, these guidelines can change e.g., when the zero-tolerance was reintroduced in 2021, which concludes the first sub-question. The respective mining company cooperates with Naalakkersuisut and afterwards, the general public and local community is involved. Naalakkersuisut provides the guidelines and then introduces the respective mining company to these and is an important communication conduit between the company and the public. The public and the local people in Narsaq are introduced and presented to the respective mining company through meetings and other arrangements. Furthermore, after a public hearing meeting, where the SIA and EIA report is presented, the locals and the local community have a certain amount of time to ask questions about the possible mining project.

The level of cooperation between Naalakkersuisut, a mining company, and the public/local community, does not directly influence the decision-making regarding the licensing of different stages of the possible mining project. This means that Naalakkersuisut is the ultimate decision-maker and powerholder.

The thesis concludes the second sub-question, as follows: from the 40 respondents who answered the survey in Narsaq and from the people from Narsaq who agreed to participate in semi-structured interviews, it can be concluded that the majority of these do not trust or support either of the two mining projects. However, the respondents were more familiar with the Kuannersuit mine, than with the Killavaat Alannguat mine, and more respondents had a clearer opinion about Greenland Minerals Ltd than TANBREEZ. It was also stated by some of the respondents that there was a lack of available information about the TANBREEZ firm and their project. Moreover, the majority of the respondents  were dissatisfied with the way of the Greenlandic government’s handling of both the two mining projects.

The third and last sub-question has the following conclusion: there is an existing difference between the two mining companies, but the study did not show which mining project was more positively viewed. Instead, it showed that Greenland Minerals Ltd has prioritized stakeholder engagement to a greater extent, which gave the result that more of the respondents have a larger familiarity with the project. TANBREEZ has not held nearly as many stakeholder or public meetings. The majority of respondents mentioned that they did not feel they had enough information about the firm to have a clear opinion. The results of the research questions did not match the expectations the researcher originally had towards the beginning of the research, but the research provided valuable information about the subject of mining in Southern Greenland, which presents the respondents wishes for increased communication between the respective mining firms and the local community. 

Furthermore, there is a difference between how the government is running the actual process e.g., public hearings, etc., and how some of the respondents want it to be. Some respondents wished for a clearer, more extensive, and direct communication with the potential mining firms.

From the analysis and results of the chosen theory and methods, it can be concluded that it is not necessary to have an SLO to open a mine in Southern Greenland. This answer is based on Boutilier & Thomas’ SLO pyramid, which shows that neither of the two mining firms in Southern Greenland, Greenland Minerals Ltd or TANBREEZ, have secured an SLO and have only reached the level of acceptance, defined as a legal license from the government.

The level of cooperation between Naalakkersuisut, a mining company, and the public/local community, does not directly influence the decision-making regarding the licensing of different stages of the possible mining project, which means that Naalakkersuisut is the ultimate decisionmaker and powerholder. This means that the public has no direct impact of the actual decision but can have an essential indirect impact when an election is held.

This thesis research showed that the respondents who participated in the research, wishes for increased communication with the respective mining companies and Naalakkersuisut. Furthermore,  the governmental frame of mining applications is complicated and can take years to get through. This may affect possible big scale mining operations or smaller mining operations, as they only have limited economical funding.

Moreover, if the Greenlandic mining strategy shall increase and become a significant part in the Greenlandic economy, Naalakkersuisut needs to increase the inclusion of the public significantly and provide them with a sufficient amount of information, which can result in a stronger base of coorporation between the public and the company. 

An important note to mention is with the limited time and resources as a master student, this research project contains some important limitations e.g. Only forty people took part in the survey and only seventeen semi-structured interviews were held. These numbers are insufficient to obtain statistically significant results and the respondents was not necessarily representative of the local population, as they were recruited from those already engaged with the public process by virtue of attending a civic meeting.

The researcher hopes that this thesis can have an impact that provides the reader with an amount of knowledge into an area in Greenland there is under development, and needs improvement in terms of communication, research and governmental framework.


An emerging mining industry in Greenland, will have an effect on how the Danish realm is currently shaped and exactly this, can potentially create an opportunity for a much needed change. 

Mining does not yet, play a significant role in the Greenlandic economy but the mining industry has the potential to transform Greenland’s relationship in the Danish realm because of the agreement there was made in the year of 2009. This agreement was made because Greenland home took the area of rare earths and minerals, which means that if/when Greenland earns more than 75 million DKK from mining in one year, the profits would be split fifty-fifty with Denmark and the Danish block grant would then be significantly reduced. Additionally with time, and if Greenland earns more, the Danish block grant would be completely removed (Statsministeriet, 2013, p.4).

Greenland today is economically dependent on the danish block grant, but mining has the potential to significantly reduce this dependency and provide Greenland with a much needed economical revenue, which can minimize or remove the block grant altogether.

Would this strengthen Greenland in the Danish realm?

My hypothesis is that it would create positive impact for all in the Danish realm and create the potential for a new Arctic perspective, moreover would a stronger version of the existing Danish

realm be ideal with the current political climate were rare earths and minerals are crucial in order to downsize the global carbon footprint.

There has been build up political tension over the years between Denmark and Greenland, it stands clear that the realm needs to find a new way to cooperate with each other, in order to become stronger in the international political-power arena.

The mining industry in Greenland is emerging and it can provide the country with the opportunity to earn an economical resource the country did not have before and re-create Greenland’s economic status in the Danish realm, therefore creating a stronger and a more productive relationship with each other, there fits the current time and society.

Specialet er indstillet til specialekonkurrencen 2022.

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Senest opdateret 23. juni 2024