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TERRITORIAL RIGHTS IN GREENLAND legal basis - view points and considerations

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Large scale mineral and petroleum extraction - in fact or in terms of industry projects and government hopeful expectations - has in recent years been one of the main sources of conflict between indigenous peoples and the larger society encompassing them. This is particularly true of Greenland - not because of the numbers or magnitude of projects - but because there is no individual ownership to land in Greenland, in the traditional western sense and some of the traditional sources of conflict have therefore been absent. For a discussion of aboriginal territorial rights in Greenland, it might therefore be appropriate to take your point of departure in the conflicts which may arise between mineral extraction and the traditional Greenlandic land use. I shall therefore shortly review legal data, which may contribute to the solution of such conflicts. By the same process I'll contribute to the understanding of the legal entity, which is endowed with the territorial rights in Greenland, or - popularly speaking: who owns Greenland. While it is generally recognized that the ownership of Greenland is vested in the public or in the society, is has been disputed which society or what public possess the legal claim to that entitlement. The Home Rule Commission For Greenland contributed no solution to this problem, and the "Home Rule Act" simply laid down, that "the permanent resident population in Greenland have basic rights to the natural resources of Greenland".2 The mining acts for Greenland - both the old one from 1965 (rev. 69) and the one adapted to home rule from 1978 - prescribes that mineral concessions shall respect existing (use) rights (§ 3 resp. 8).3 This suggests two issues: 1.: what are the contents of the protected existing rights and as a sub-issue: who are entitled. This first problem is my main subject in the following, while I shall only touch upon the 2. issue: namely, that the authorities in granting concessions have neglected their duty to examine and safeguard prior existing Greenlandic land use rights. This is still current practice and represent a major reason for the fact that the main issue has yet to be solved. I shall subsequently contribute to the elucidation of existing Greenlandic land use rights by discussing: 1) localized rights, 2) the more general Greenlandic territorial rights and finally 3) the issue of the protection of these Greenlandic rights according to the Danish constitution (§ 73).


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