Canada Will Take on Russia and Denmark over the North Pole
December 8, 2013
Silvia Ascarelli / MarketWatch & James Burgess / OilPrice.com & Steven Chase / The Globe and Mail
Dust off your Cold War preparedness kit. Canada is officially picking a fight with Russia, over who owns the North Pole. Denmark want it too. The reason for this interest in the frigid north is money. The Arctic is believed to contain as much as a quarter of the world's undiscovered fossil fuel resources. Tapping and burning these oil and gas resources, however, would create enough global warming gases to threaten climate stability and human survival.
Canada Will Take on Russia and
Denmark over the North Pole
Silvia Ascarelli / MarketWatch
(December 4, 2013) -- Canada is staking out its claim to the North Pole, according to the Globe and Mail newspaper, Russia and Denmark want it too.
The reason for this interest in the frigid north is money. The Arctic is believed to contain as much as a quarter of the world's undiscovered energy resources, according to the Globe and Mail.
Add in all those melting blocks of ice and new seaways, and exploration and development of any discoveries would be easier.
There's also a political angle for Canada: The interest of its prime minister, Stephen Harper. He favors developing the area in the interest of the 120,000 who live in Canada's North.
The first step will come Friday, the deadline for its application to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to take over part of the Arctic seafloor. Canada can seek to go beyond the internationally recognized limit of 200 miles from its coast if it can show the seabed is part of its continental shelf.
The 10-year time limit for making a claim is different for every Arctic country because it depends on when it ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Russia used that reasoning in an application more than a decade ago and has been told to gather more evidence. It still plunked down a Russian flag on the North Pole seabed in 2007.
Any decision on just who owns the Pole is likely to be years away, after scientists evaluate the claims. Only then might we know what country Santa lives in.
Russia Opens Arctic Military Base to Protect Against US Threat
James Burgess / OilPrice.com
(December 4, 2013) -- On Tuesday, whilst speaking to a group of university students in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the Arctic posed a region of vital importance to not only the economic interests of Russia, in terms of the vast hydrocarbon reserves buried there, but also the defense interests of the country, due to the threat of potential missile strikes from US submarines based in Arctic waters.
"Not only are there major economic interests for our country there… it is also an important part of our defence capability.
There are (US) submarines there and they carry missiles. It only takes 15-16 minutes for US missiles to reach Moscow from the Barents Sea. So should we give away the Arctic? We should on the contrary explore it."
In order to provide greater defensive options and more control over the region, Putin has ordered for an old Soviet military base to be reopened in the Arctic, that will be able to protect the northern coast as it turns into a more popular global shipping route, and any energy infrastructure operating in the area.
Russia, the world's second largest oil exporter, is one of the countries vying for a piece of the Arctic now that global warming is causing sea ice to melt at a faster rate, making the vast deposits of oil, gas, and precious metals more accessible. Other countries interested in the area are Canada, the US, Denmark, and Norway.
Reuters says that Moscow has already laid claim to a large portion of the Arctic seabed, stating that it is theirs by right as it is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.
Now with the knowledge of how Russia views the Arctic as a matter of defensive and economic importance, it is slightly easier (although not much) to understand their overreaction to the Greenpeace protestors arrested in Arctic waters in September.
Only through severe international pressure were the charges against the 30 activists dropped from piracy, carrying a 15-year jail sentence, to hooliganism, which carries a seven year sentence.
Harper Orders New Draft of
Arctic Seabed Claim to Include North Pole
Steven Chase / The Globe and Mail
OTTAWA (December 4 2013) -- Stephen Harper has ordered government bureaucrats back to the drawing board to craft a more expansive international claim for seabed riches in the Arctic after the proposed submission they showed him failed to include the geographic North Pole, The Globe and Mail has learned.
The Arctic is believed to contain as much as one-quarter of the world's undiscovered energy resources, and countries are tabling scientific evidence with a United Nations commission to win rights to polar sea-floor assets. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country can secure control of ocean floor beyond the internationally recognized 200 nautical mile limit if it can demonstrate the seabed is an extension of its continental shelf.
Senior government officials say Canada will meet its Dec. 6 filing deadline for making an application to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, but it will be a preliminary submission that outlines a portion of the Canadian claim and preserves this country's right to make further submissions later.
Canada will follow up with a broader claim that includes the geographic North Pole after the necessary work has been completed, sources say.
Mr. Harper has spent much of his career as Prime Minister styling himself a champion of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic and has made advancing claims for undersea polar resources a major plank in his strategy for the region.
The Prime Minister's Office and cabinet have had concerns for several weeks about the claim, and this week Mr. Harper asked bureaucrats responsible for the application to take more time to get the submission right, sources say.
The Prime Minister is not prepared to forfeit Canada's claim to the geographic North Pole to Russia and Denmark, senior officials said by way of explanation. The final claims of both these countries are expected to cover this area.
Sources say the proposed Canadian claim that failed to meet Mr. Harper's approval did not include all the possible areas that could qualify as an extension of Canada's continental shelf based on available evidence and the UN commission's scientific criteria.
The Canadian government has worked for nearly a decade on its submission -- which will cover areas in both the Arctic region and the Atlantic ocean -- and the cost of this exercise, including mapping the sea floor, has run more than $200-million.
In 2009, Canada's mapping of the Arctic pushed into territory Russia has claimed in the high-stakes drive by countries to establish clear title to the polar region and its seabed resources.
Survey flights Ottawa conducted in late winter and early spring that year went beyond the North Pole and into an area where Russia has staked claims. They took readings of undersea formations and ridges in the High Arctic.
Moscow claimed territory up to the North Pole in its 2001 submission under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but was told by adjudicators to gather more evidence. The Russians are not expected to back down. In 2007, a Russian submarine drove this point home when it dropped a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole.
Both Canada and Russia say they believe the mineral and oil-rich Lomonosov Ridge, which runs beneath the ocean and close to the geographic North Pole, is a natural extension of their continental shelves.
A boundary dispute with Russia would open up a new diplomatic challenge for Canada. Both countries have nevertheless committed to a peaceful resolution of conflicts over claims submitted under the international process.
It will take years for the scientific evidence to be verified.
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