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China’s global quest for mineral resources continues – in the Arctic

Earlier this month, China’s President Hu Jintao paid a three-day visit to Denmark. Danish officials were quick to dismiss speculations that Arctic issues were on the agenda, but the fact that “the leader of the world’s most populous country decided to visit a nation of 5.6-million for the first time in 62 years” only two weeks after visiting Iceland naturally invites the question “what China wants in the far north,” as MiningWeekly.com put it.

The question becomes all the more relevant against the backdrop of Denmark reportedly having made a strategic decision to serve as “the key gateway for Beijing’s commercial an strategic entrée in to the Arctic” earlier this year. Greenland, which is a self-governing dependency of Denmark, is seen as a bargaining chip by Denmark in its efforts to bolster its trade relations with Beijing, largely due to its mineral riches, which, as American Resources principal Dan McGroarty has previously pointed out, makes Greenland “as a stand-alone state something akin to Saudi Arabia – save that the Saudis are a uni-dimensional resource superpower, shackled for better or worse to the petro-economy.”

China’s forays into the Arctic circle, and fears that China, which already controls more than 97% of global rare earth production, might gain control over Greenland’s rare earths may have influenced the EU Commission’s decision to sign an letter of understanding with Greenland to “ensure that Greenland’s minerals remained available to free markets in the future.”

The United States’ claim in the Arctic regioin comes via Alaska. Perhaps now would be a good time to show up on the Arctic stage and harness the state’s significant resource potential.