Greenlanders welcome idea of ​​mining sand from melting ice

A team of researchers from McGill University, Quebec, published on Thursday (New window)in the review Nature Sustainabilitythe results of a study that focused on the opinion of Greenlanders in relation to the extraction and export of sand that accumulates with the melting of glaciers.

To the great astonishment of the team, the majority of those surveyed would be in favor of the exploitation and export of this accumulation of sand, a direct result of climate change.

We were really surprised that this idea was supported by the majority of study participants.explains senior researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Geography at McGill University, Metta Bendixen.

In this study, funded by the Danish Foundation Carlsberg, 939 adults were surveyed in Greenland, a country whose population is 90% Indigenous. According to the results obtained, three out of four Greenlanders would be in favor of sand mining.

It shows that it is important to include the opinion of the population, because this opinion may go against the ideas normally received.adds the researcher. Indigenous communities are often thought to be more conservative when it comes to environmental protection. What is expressed in this study is quite the opposite: the communities see an opportunity to benefit from it.

Sand, soon to be a rarity

Sand is a resource in high demand around the world and climate change means that Greenland is on the way to becoming a country that has a very large quantity of this resource.

The demand for sand in the world exceeds the availability of this resource, used among others in the construction sector, in the design of microchips and in the manufacture of glass.

Photo: iStock/Jonathan Lesage

In the Arctic, we mainly notice the erosion of the banks, but in Greenland, it is the opposite that occurs. The coasts are expanding because of the sand that accumulates more and moreexplains Ms. Bendixen.

This study also found that a large proportion of people want Greenland’s leaders to assess the environmental and economic impacts of sand mining and export. Also, the majority of people surveyed would prefer that the sand be extracted by local companies rather than by foreign companies.

Mining of Greenlandic sand is not about to start, however, according to Ms Bendixen. Sand is still relatively affordable, so it’s not economically feasible to mine it in Greenland, at least not for decades.

Mitigate the effects or adapt to climate change?

The person in charge of the study admits that the angle approached is unusual at a time when more solutions are sought to limit the effects of climate change.

We rarely think we could take advantage of economic opportunities due to climate changeargues the researcher.

Greenlanders are at the forefront of the effects of climate change: they live with the consequences of climate change. However, for me, this study shows us that Greenlanders are becoming aware of the fact that they have to be pragmatic and take advantage of the opportunities available to them in their country.

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