Showing posts with label Greenland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greenland. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Who owns the North Pole - Pt. 34 - Greenland?

As rising temperatures expose more land for exploration, prospectors are rushing to the far north in the hope of carving out a new mineral frontier. The Arctic was largely off-limits because much of the land was considered unworkable. Global warming has changed that. More and more is becoming ice-free. Increasing amount of seaborne traffic is beginning to move on the so-called Northern Sea Route which traverses the Siberian coast. There are also hopes of opening up more of the North West Passage above Canada. New mining applications are being submitted for extraction, all the way from Canada through Greenland to Finland. The South Pole is the subject of an Antarctic treaty but there is no similar arrangement for the far north. But most states around the Arctic are not keen to have their hands tied by an international agreement of this kind.

"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 Linkgive 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".

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Who owns the North Pole - Part 29

Greenland is an autonomous territory belonging to Denmark. But the U.S. believes Greenland is headed for independence, presenting “a unique opportunity” for American gas and oil companies to make money.

With Arctic ice receding due to global warming, American officials have been cozying up to Greenland, where future oil and mineral deposits may become available to exploration. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that the U.S. and other industrial nations are jockeying to “carve up” Arctic resources in the coming years. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Greenland territory may sit atop oil reserves as large as those in the North Sea. The Arctic Circle could contain 90 billion barrels of oil, about 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. In addition to oil and natural gas, mining companies also have their eyes on aluminum, iron ore, gold and rubies.

One diplomatic dispatch states: “Our intensified outreach to the Greenlanders will encourage them to resist any false choice between the United States and Europe. It will also strengthen our relationship with Greenland vis-a-vis the Chinese, who have shown increasing interest in Greenland's natural resource.”

Tensions within NATO are also exposed, as Canadian leaders privately express disquiet over the alliance’s mooted plans to project military force in the Arctic in the face of perceived Russian aggression. Recently re-elected Canadian PM Stephen Harper is quoted by diplomats as saying that a NATO presence in the region would give non-Arctic members of the Western alliance too much influence in an area where “they don’t belong”.
Another cable quotes Danish foreign minister Moeller’s opinion that “new shipping routes and natural resource discoveries would eventually place the region at the center of world politics.” The head of the Russian navy is quoted as saying “one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention.” A 2010 cable quotes Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin saying: "The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight ... NATO has sensed where the wind comes from. It comes from the North."

Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe reacting to the release of the new cables, said “These latest Wikileaks revelations expose something profoundly concerning. Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, the leaders of the Arctic nations are instead investing in military hardware to fight for the oil beneath it. They’re preparing to fight to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.” Ayliffe of Greenpeace continued: “As so often before, this new military build-up is all about oil."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 2

Further to this earlier blog on the newly discovered economic and strategic potential of a warmer Arctic region , Russian geologists now say they have data that would support a claim to about 1.2m sq km (463,000 sq miles) of energy-rich territory in the Arctic .
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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