Russia to File Arctic Claim to UN This Year

Russia will file a claim to the gigantic mineral wealth of the Arctic seabed with the United Nations by the end of the year, Russia’s natural resources minister said recently.

Russia, the world’s biggest country, says a whole swathe of the Arctic seabed should belong to Moscow because the area is really an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said last week that Russia would submit its claim with the United Nations this year.

“We believe that the research results of the Arctic-2007 expedition are sufficient for a bid to include the Lomonosov Ridge in Russia’s economic zone,” RIA Novosti quoted Trutnev as saying.

“We can hardly start the economic exploitation of this territory, which is beyond Russia’s borders, without the agreement of other countries, without the agreement of the UN,” Reuters quoted Trutnev as saying.

“The scientists think that the data for submitting a claim is sufficient. We will fight for Russia’s right to this plot,” he said, adding that the bid would be ready by the end of the year.

Russia, already the world’s second biggest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, is in a race with Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States to control the giant reserves of oil,

gas and precious metals that would become more accessible if global warming shrinks the ice cap.

Earlier this month, Trutnev had said that the development of the Lomonosov Ridge could bring Russia up to 5 billion metric tons of oil equivalent.

Russia’s oceanology research institute has undertaken two Arctic expeditions on orders from the ministry – to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge this summer – to back Russian claims to the region. The area is believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves and other mineral riches, likely to become accessible in future decades due to man-made global warming.

Researchers have conducted deepwater seismic probes, aerial and geophysical surveys, and seismic-acoustic probes from the Akademik Fedorov and Rossiya icebreakers.

The ministry said scientists would announce their final research results in December.

Deputy Natural Resources Minister Alexei Varlamov said earlier that the Arctic territory could add 80 million tons of oil and 426 billion cubic meters of gas to Russian reserves, bringing the country an additional 1.35 billion metric tons of oil equivalent.

In 2001, Russia first claimed its right to the territory, but the UN demanded more evidence.

Under international law, the five Arctic Circle countries – Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States and Denmark (which governs Greenland) – all have a shoreline within the Arctic Circle, and have a 200-mile economic zone around the north of their coastlines.

Under the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, any state with an Arctic coastline that wishes to stake a claim to a greater share of the Arctic must lodge its submission with the U.N.’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Russia lodged a claim with the UN commission in 2001. It responded a year later by recommending Russia make a revised submission with additional research.

Since then, Moscow has been attempting to gather scientific evidence to back its claim.

Asked if there was a struggle for the Arctic, Trutnev said: “More like real competition.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told a conference on climate change last week that political solutions are needed now to problems posed by climate change that threaten peace in areas ranging from Africa to the Middle East and even the Arctic.

“There’s a ‘Cold War’ at the North Pole that we have to prevent,” he said. “Climate change is a threat to worldwide peace and security.

“Not only Russia but other neighboring nations have also staked claims for fossil fuels in this region,” Steinmeier said. “The eternal ice is melting before our eyes. Climate change has made exploitation possible where it was thought not possible.”