Near universal derision was poured on Donald Trump by the mainstream media when he confirmed that he would be interested in buying Greenland for the US.
Denmark, which still owns Greenland, despite a self-governing deal done some years back, emphatically stated that Greenland is not for sale.
But Greenlanders themselves might take a different view. After all, there’s only 56,000 of them, so it wouldn’t be beyond the financial resources of the USA to make every one of them an offer they simply couldn’t refuse. What’s more, Greenland suffers from higher incidence of suicide, alcoholism and unemployment, so a fully underwritten fresh start could have some appeal.
But it’s not altruism that’s motivating Donald Trump.
The Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod understood the underlying principle behind the mooted US offer when he said that Greenland could not be bought for “dollars, yuan or roubles.”
The idea that the geopolitical map of the world is anything close to fixed is of course a nonsense, especially with the Arctic, and by extension Greenland itself, opening up to new opportunities as global warming strips away the ice cover.
“We have a good co-operation with USA, and we see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer,” said Greenland’s Prime Minister Kim Kielsen.
“Of course, Greenland is not for sale.”
So that’s probably an end to the matter.
…that with Donald Trump you never quite know what’s going to happen next.
The US acquisition of territory using its own hard cash has plenty of precedent. There was the Louisiana purchase back in the early 19th century, when Napoleon rightly judged that US specie was of more value to him than the vast swathe of territory that now comprises the central USA, what with the Royal Navy in control of the Atlantic.
And then, not much more than 50 years later, the US bought Alaska from Russia, after the Czar judged that the territory was of no real value.
Will Greenland be next?
Forestalling any Chinese influence would be one reason why the US might wish to press ahead with a more serious approach. Already China wields vast influence across the African continent, influence bought that’s brought to bear by and large through its heavy investment in the development of resources and raw materials.
It could be that in the fullness of time Greenland will offer another such opportunity, only with such a small population that the social issues that the Chinese have run into again and again in Africa could well be kept to a minimum.
Equally, Russia has always suffered strategically from limited access from any of its coasts to the open ocean. A Russian expansion into Greenland, even as the ice rolls back, would be an extremely bold and significant move in the never-ending chess game that is global dominance.
That neither Russia nor China has seriously contemplated such a move isn’t likely to forestall Donald Trump, who has described the idea as essentially a “huge real estate deal.”
He knows that not only would the US secure the strategic position of Greenland under its own flag if such a deal went ahead, but that the rich array of natural resources that Greenland has to offer would also come the way of the US.
As it stands, the potential exploitation of Greenland’s resource base is still in its infancy.
But the early movers in the country’s burgeoning resource industry are already exploiting a wide variety of minerals.
AEX Gold Inc (CVE:EEX) is already mining gold in southern Greenland. Greenland Ruby A/S is mining sapphire and Ruby on the west of the island.
Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd (ASX:GGG) is exploring at the Ilimaussaq Complex, which includes the Kvanefeld rare earths deposit, and which more broadly is prospective for lithium, uranium, zirconium, zinc and fluorine.
That rare earths component could be of particular interest to Mr Trump, and indeed it may be that contemplating the strategic need of the US to secure rare earths in the face of Chinese control of supply set him towards thinking about the deal in the first place.
Elswhere, Bluejay Mining (LON:JAY) has the Dundas titanium and ilmenite project, the highest grade mineral sands project globally. Its Disko project has nickel, copper, platinum and cobalt, and the Kangersluarsuk Sed-Ex project has lead, zinc and silver.
Regency Mines (LON:RGM) had a nose around at the Motzfeldt niobium and tantalum project a few years ago.
Chinese interests control the Isua iron ore project 150 kilometres north-east of Nuuk, for several years.
All of this is no doubt scratching a surface, which could also yield considerable oil and gas riches too.
It may not be for sale, but given its resources and its geographical position, you can see why someone might be tempted to make an offer.
After all Mr Trump’s base elected him to think outside of the box. In this case, that’s just what he’s doing.