Greenland has considerable mineral deposits. Formerly cryolite was mined in Ivittuut, coal near Qullissat, marble and later, zinc, lead and silver near Maarmorilik and zinc, molybdenum and lead near Mesters Vig. There are also a number of minerals which may prove to be of economic interest, including offshore oil finds close to Nuuk and Jameson Land in East Greenland as well as deposits of gold, niobium, tantalite, uranium, iron and diamonds. Greenland‘s first major hydraulic power plant is situated near the Buksefjord south of Nuuk.
In the traditional sealing community the marine mammals are essential for survival and every year around 170,000 seals, some walruses and a limited number of whales are killed. The meat of the animals is traded locally where it fetches considerable sums, but the only commercial exploitation of the seals is through the sale of sealskins to the tannery Great Greenland in Qaqortoq. Due to the difficulties of selling the skins on the global market, the Home Rule Government generously subsidises the sealskin trades. However, in recent years, this market has improved considerably. Every year, less than 100 polar bears are killed. Only local residents whose main occupation is hunting may hunt polar bears.
In addition, the island‘s rich bird life is exploited and the reindeer in West Greenland and the musk oxen in North East Greenland and around Kangerlussuaq are also hunted. Hunting continues to play an important role for the population in North and East Greenland, though it is no longer the dominant occupation. On the other hand, hunting has gained a strong foothold as a subsidiary occupation or leisure activity in towns as well as settlements.
The more fertile areas of South Greenland are suitable for sheep farming and fields have been cultivated for harvesting the necessary winter fodder during the summer. As there is no private right of ownership for land in Greenland, the sheep farmers are jointly responsible for agreeing the terms of the right to use the land. Some 20,000 lambs are slaughtered annually in Narsaq and in addition, large numbers are slaughtered on the farms.
The nutrient salts from the melting snow and ice during the summer months together with the long, light summers encourage abundant plankton growth, which feeds more than 200 different species of fish, crustaceans and mussels. In addition to 5,000 dinghies, the fishing fleet consists of around 300 cutters and some 25 trawlers.
The cold-water prawn is by far the most important fishing product. Formerly, cod played a central role, but today Greenland halibut is particularly important. Fishing of Norway haddock, catfish, Atlantic halibut, salmon and char is of local importance.
The majority of Greenland‘s fishing industry is managed by Royal Greenland A/S, which is owned by the Home Rule Government. The main product is peeled prawns, which are sold on the northern European market. The company‘s trawlers mainly produce unpeeled, cooked or raw, frozen prawns. The company is the world‘s largest retailer of cold-water prawns. A total of almost 6,500 people are employed in fishing and the fishing industry.
Much of Greenland‘s wholesale and retail business is managed by the publicly owned company KNI (Kalaallit Niuerfiat, Greenland Trade). The company is divided into two separate units, Pisiffik A/S, which operates in the ten largest towns, and Pilersuisoq A/S, which supplies settlements and smaller towns. KNI handles approximately half the total sales; the rest is distributed between the co-op FDB‘s retail chain Brugsen and private businesses. Trade and sales together employ around 3,500 people. An essential component of Greenland‘s trade is brædtet (the board), where hunters and fishermen sell seasonal produce directly to the public. Larger towns have purpose-built facilities with electricity and water for bradtet, while smaller towns and settlements manage with simple open-air stands.
More than 8,000 civil servants are employed in the service and administration sector, mostly by the Home Rule Government and the Landsstyre. Many of the jobs are in Nuuk. The 18 municipalities employ around 2,600 people in local administration, the education system and social institutions such as old people‘s homes, creches, nurseries and youth recreation centres. The central authorities employ around 300 people.
Government of Greenland, 3900 Nuuk, Phone: (00299) 34 50 00