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UPDATE 1-Greenland calls election after government breaks up

(Adds details, background)

COPENHAGEN, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Greenland’s government called a national election late on Tuesday after parliament threatened it with a no-confidence vote, just over a week after a junior party left the ruling coalition in a dispute over a mining project.

The world’s largest non-continental island is home to just 56,000 people and is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. It enjoys broad autonomy, but leaves foreign, monetary and defence policy to Copenhagen.

The main governing Siumut party has been riven by a dispute over Kvanefjeld, a rare earth and uranium open-pit mining project that has been running for almost 15 years.

Citing that dispute, the Democrats left the coalition on Feb. 8, leaving the government short of a parliamentary majority.

“The parliamentary term is over. It is premature due to various circumstances. But we must look ahead and we must prepare for more unity in this country,” Prime Minister Kim Kielsen told parliament, according to local broadcaster KNR.

The election has been scheduled for April 6.

While most Greenlanders see mining as an important path towards independence, the Kvanefjeld mine has been a contention point for years, sowing deep divisions in the government and population over environmental concerns.

The project, which is partly owned by Chinese Shenghe Resources, is licensed to Australian Greenland Minerals , whose shares have dropped almost 60% in recent weeks as the political row over the mine has deepened.

According to a January survey, opposition party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA), which is opposed to the mining project, has become the largest party since the last election in 2018, and is set to win 13 out of 31 seats in parliament, over Siumut’s nine.

Siumut has been out of government once since 1979. (Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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