When is the Arctic’s turn?

December 5, 2012

Untold riches are concentrated at the North Pole.  Recently the U.S Geological Survey published the first national evaluation of the mineral resources of this region.  In the opinion of American specialists, there are no fewer than 90 billion barrels of unexplored oil and 1.670 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.  This is more than the proven hydrocarbon reserves of Russia.  The report says that the larger part of unexplored resources is more likely situated closer to the Russian shores and on the Alaskan plate.  Perhaps this data would help those in the United States who seek cancellation of a ban on mining exploration in the natural conservation area in the state of Alaska.  The Report of the U.S. Geological Survey is the result of four years of research, and it is the first comprehensive research available to the public.  It is one of the most reputable evaluations of the oil and gas potential of our planet’s crown.  The report implies that the gas reserves in the Arctic surpass three-fold the oil reserves, and the main part of gas reserves is in the Russian sector.  In other words, 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves, approximately 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas reserves, and 20 percent of its gas condensate, are within the polar circle. 

According to earlier estimations, up to 25 percent of the world’s hydrocarbon fuel—and much more of other rare and extremely sought-after mineral resources—lies at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Last August two deep-water submersibles, “Mir-1” and “Mir-2”, were successfully lowered into a giant ice hole cut by the nuclear powered icebreaker “Rossiya” in the area of the North Pole.  The bathyscaphs successfully reached the bottom at a depth of more than four thousand meters, where they took ground samples and erected a titanium Russian flag.  This operation compares to a space mission in its complexity.  Our partners in the Arctic exploration received this news with extreme nervousness.  The issue at hand is that, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a state able to prove that its continental shelf reaches 200 sea miles beyond its legally owned coastal waters has the right to all the mineral resources of the continental shelf. Russia wants to prove by this scientific research that the Lomonosov Ridge—the underwater ridge that stretches perpendicularly from the northern shores of Siberia for 2,300 kilometers to almost subpolar Canadian islands, is the extension of its continental shelf.  Having recovered from the shock, Russia’s Arctic neighbors positioned themselves for an attack.  For instance, Danish and Canadian scientists declared that the Lomonosov Ridge, running under the North Pole, is geologically connected with North American and Greenland plateau.  Representatives of these countries may differ in their opinions regarding the division of the Lomonosov Ridge among themselves, but they unanimously agree that it is not the extension of the Russian continental shelf.  Canada and the United States have declared that the earlier argument over possession of the 12,000 square kilometers