Wednesday, July 06, 2011
"An active growth of oil and gas exploration in the [arctic] region may become a death sentence for its environment. The natural world of these northern seas is so sensitive and so vulnerable that even a slightest breach in its structure can lead to consequences no one will be able to reverse," a 2007 report concluded.
Greenland's government pressed ahead with new offshore licence awards to major companies including Shell, ConocoPhilips and Norway's Statoil. Ove Karl Berthelsen, Greenland's minister for industry and mineral resources, makes clear his country's motivation at a time when it is trying to break away from overall political control by Denmark: "The result of the licensing round is an important step towards achieving a sustainable economy for Greenland." Greenland, whose population is 80% Inuit, has recently won a measure of self-rule from its traditional colonial masters, Denmark. The new government in Nuuk is desperately keen to win complete independence and understands this is impossible while the country is dependent on financial handouts from Copenhagen. The Greenland government in Nuuk has just underlined its commitment to new ventures by repealing a law that prevented any kind of uranium mining. The law have been amended to grant exploration licences for radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium. Henrik Stendal, head of the geology department at the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum in Nuuk says "global warming is good for Greenland."
Promises to give lots of work or money to local communities: people tend to say 'yes' to these things without necessarily thinking them through the consequences. Ove Gudmestad, a professor of marine and Arctic technology at the University of Stavanger in Norway said local people were rightly wary that they could get sucked into a legal dispute that could last for decades and for which the oil companies are far better prepared and resourced.
Richard Shepherd, chairman of the specialist oil consultancy, Petrologica, believes there is a strong political momentum behind increased polar exploration that extends way beyond the boundaries of Greenland. He says: "Arctic oil and gas is on the strategic agenda due to fear of energy dependence and fear of absolute shortages. Energy security is now synonymous with national security in the US – as it is with China". This, combined with rising prices means the pressure to exploit the Arctic's oil wealth will only increase.
Britain's richest man is planning a giant new opencast mine 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle in a bid to extract a potential $23bn (£14bn) worth of iron ore. The "mega-mine" – which includes a 150km railway line and two new ports – is believed to be the largest mineral extraction project in the Arctic and highlights the huge commercial potential of the far north as global warming makes industrial development in the region easier. The company has just spent nearly $600m (£373m) alongside a US private equity firm buying Baffinland Iron Mines, to seize control and develop the Mary river deposits in the Nunavut region of the Canadian Arctic. The world's biggest steel-making group, ArcelorMittal, admits the operations will be undertaken in an area inhabited by unique wildlife including polar bear, narwhal and walrus. The company admits any large diesel spill "would have significant environmental effects".
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Several ministers have previously suggested that Denmark could lay claim to the North Pole, but if the draft is adopted, it will be the first time that Denmark’s official policy is to claim the Pole and puts Denmark on a collision course with other Arctic claimants. Territorial claims over vast stretches of the energy-rich Arctic are serious business.
Conservationists aren’t pleased with the territorial ambitions, however, saying countries bordering the Arctic Ocean should focus on the region’s fragile environment and not its demarcation and development.“This is a land grab which is about getting access to resources,” said Mads Christensen, executive director for Greenpeace Nordic. “No one is advocating for a pathway where we look at it as a global good.”
Thursday, January 13, 2011
"We're not doing OK," said Lt. Cmdr. Nahshon Almandmoss "We definitely don't have the infrastructure available to operate for an extended period of time in the Arctic in the summer, much less in the winter when it's more critical for logistical purposes."
In a report last September, the Government Accountability Office said the Coast Guard lacks adequate infrastructure or equipment in the Arctic.
"With 20 percent of the yet-to-be-discovered oil, gas and minerals remaining in the world in the Arctic, the U.S. can't risk losing it," said Rear Adm. Christopher C. Colvin, commander of Alaska's 17th Coast Guard District, from Anchorage.
The Arctic nations - Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States - have been preparing to claim larger chunks of territory under a clause in the treaty that governs the world's waters. Non-Arctic nations like China and South Korea also have been eyeing the economic potential in the far north. The only international treaty that applies to the Arctic is the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by more than 150 nations. But although it helped draft the convention and subsequent revisions, the United States has not ratified the treaty; conservatives say it impinges on U.S. national sovereignty. Under the treaty, a nation that can prove its continental shelf extends past the current boundary of 200 miles off its coastline can be granted up to 150 additional miles of seabed. Like other Arctic countries, the United States is gathering scientific evidence for its claim to an extended continental shelf in the Arctic. Russia has been preparing a territory claim that would absorb nearly half of the Arctic into its possession
"An extra 150 miles of shelf can be billions or trillions of dollars in resources," said Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, commander of Alaskan Command, Joint Task Force Alaska, Alaskan North American Defense Region and the 11th Air Force.
In 2007, Russia planted a flag in the waters below the North Pole. Canada planted one nearby soon after. Denmark placed its flag on the north's contested Han Island (which Canada promptly removed and delivered back to Danish officials.) America and Canada cooperated on scientific and military operations last summer. Canada bought fleets of F-35 fighter jets and is building a new base along its Arctic coast. Russia is building new icebreakers and new nuclear-power stations on its north coast.
Nations are taking steps to position themselves.
Friday, August 10, 2007
The month-long Danish expedition will study the Lomonosov Ridge. Russia believes the underwater feature is linked to its territory. Denmark , however , will investigate the ridge to see if it is geologically connected to Greenland which is a Danish territory.
The team plans to collect bathymetric, gravity and seismic data to map the seabed under the ice, according to a Danish science and technology ministry statement on the expedition.
"The preliminary investigations done so far are very promising," Denmark's minister of science, technology and innovation said "There are things suggesting that Denmark could be given the North Pole."
We will be collecting data for a possible (sovereignty) demand," expedition leader Marcussen said.
In Ottawa, the Danish ambassador to Canada, Poul Kristensen stated "it's no secret that Denmark, on behalf of Greenland" has interests in the Arctic and "of course, potentially, we can make claims."
Now the Danes - still at odds with Canada over the ownership of tiny Hans Island in the boundary waters between Ellesmere Island and Danish-controlled Greenland - are again pressing their claims to the potentially lucrative seafloor area around the North Pole.
Kristensen said Friday that "we are speaking of values in the billions" when it comes to potential Arctic oil, "and therefore the area, of course, is of interest to us."
Prime Minister Harper announced Canada will install a new army training center and a deep water port. Canada will build two new military facilities in the Arctic in a move to assert sovereignty over the contested region . Resolute Bay will be home to a new army training center for cold-weather fighting . The new deep sea port will be built for navy and civilian purposes on the north end of Baffin Island, in the abandoned old zinc-mining village of Nanisivik. Harper also announced the 4,100-member Canadian Rangers patrol will be increased by another 900 members. He stood alongside Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor and a group of Rangers — a rifle-toting, Inuit volunteer force.
"Protecting national sovereignty, the integrity of our borders, is the first and foremost responsibility of a national government, a responsibility which has too often been neglected," Harper said,
The North Pole seabed is not currently regarded as part of any single country's territory and is governed instead by complex international agreements. But for how much longer , we wonder . We also note that all this scientific investigation is not to further scienctific knowledge in geography and geology but to further business and commercial interests . Science becomes mercenary . Instead of acting in the interests of humanity , it represents the pecuniary interests of nation states .
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Late last month, Moscow signaled its intentions to annex the entire North Pole, an area twice the size of France with Belgium and Switzerland thrown in — except all of it under water. The ice-frozen North Pole is currently a no man's land supervised by a U.N. Commission. The five Polar countries — Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark — each control only a 200-mile economic zone along their coasts. And none of these economic zones reach the North Pole. Under the current U.N. Maritime convention, one country's zone can be extended only if it can prove that the continental shelf into which it wishes to expand is a natural extension of its own territory, by showing that it shares a similar geological structure.
So, the Russians claimed a great scientific discovery late last month. An expedition of 50 scientists that spent 45 days aboard the Rossia nuclear ice-breaker found that an underwater ridge (the Lomonosov ridge) directly links Russia's Arctic coast to the North Pole. This, they insist, surely guarantees Russia's rights over a vast Polar territory that also happens to contain some 10 billion tons of oil and natural gas deposits.
Russia's first attempt to expand beyond its Arctic zone was rebuffed by the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, but Moscow hopes that its "latest scientific findings" will produce a different outcome when the Commission next meets, in 2009.
Moscow is also looking to restore control over a 47,000 sq. km (18,000 sq. mile) piece of the Bering Sea separating Alaska from Russian Chukotka. The territory was ceded to the U.S. in 1990 under the U.S.-Soviet Maritime Boundary Agreement signed by Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. While the deal may have helped ease Cold War tensions, anti-reform Soviet hard-liners always opposed giving up a piece of territory rich in sea life and hydrocarbon deposits, and they and their nationalist successors prevented the agreement's ratification. Today, the Agreement still operates on a provisional basis, pending its ratification by the Russian parliament.
But what had once been a battle cry of the nationalist opposition has now become the official line. In recent weeks, Kremlin-controlled media have berated the Agreement as a treasonous act by Shervardnadze (who later became the pro-NATO President of Georgia). Now, leading pro-Kremlin members of the Russian legislature are publicly demanding that the Agreement be reviewed, with the aim of recovering the country's riches.
In May, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia claiming the hydrocarbon-rich area would be to the detriment of U.S. interests.
Meanwhile here we read dispute Canadian claims to the North West Passage .
Whereas Prime Minister Harper asserts "Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it ...It is no exaggeration to say that the need to assert our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity in the North on our terms have never been more urgent...The ongoing discovery of the north's resource riches coupled with the potential impact of climate change has made the region a growing area of interest and concern," Harper said. "
America meantime describes the Northwest Passage as "neutral waters."
"It's an international channel for passage," U.S. Embassy spokesman Foster said .
As global warming melts the passage -- which now is only navigable during a slim window in the summer -- the waters are exposing unexplored resources such as oil, fishing stocks and minerals, and becoming an attractive shipping route. Commercial ships can shave off some 2,480 miles (3,990 kilometers) from Europe to Asia compared with current routes through the Panama Canal.
Canada also wants to assert its claim over Hans Island, which is at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage. The half-square-mile (0.8-kilometer) rock is wedged between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Danish-ruled Greenland .
In 1984, Denmark's minister for Greenland affairs, Tom Hoeyem, caused a stir when he flew in on a chartered helicopter, raised a Danish flag on the island.The dispute flared again two years ago when former Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham set foot on the rock while Canadian troops hoisted the Maple Leaf flag.
Let us not be mistaken , many former allies have become rivals when natural resources become a bone of contention
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The Russian team, from the Oceanology Research Institute in St Petersburg, estimates that the Lomonosov ridge area in the Arctic contains oil and gas reserves of up to 10 billion tonnes. The geologists spent 45 days studying the Lomonosov underwater ridge.
The Law of the Sea Convention allows states an economic zone of 200 nautical miles, which can sometimes be expanded. To extend the zone, a state has to prove that the structure of the continental shelf is similar to the geological structure within its territory.
Needless to say , when it comes to a scramble for the natural wealth and riches of the world there are rarely no competitors and in this case Denmark are laying their claim to sovereignty to parts of the region also . Science Minister Helge Sander said that success would give Denmark access to "new resources such as oil and natural gas".
"First, we have to make the scientific claim. After that, there will be a political process with the other countries," science ministry official Thorkild Meedom said.
In the past , such political process between capitalist nations over raw materials has included war and invasion . It is not beyond the bounds of reason to expect a militarisation of the Arctic Circle and possible armed conflict as competing nations vie for control .
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