Global Policy Forum

Russia to File Arctic Claim to UN

October 30, 2007

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 was quoted as saying on Tuesday. 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.

The Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei quoted Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev as telling it in an interview that Russia would submit its claim with the United Nations this year. "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," the station 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."

Moscow's bid is part of 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. Russian officials say the Lomonosov ridge, a vast underwater mountain range that runs underneath the Arctic, is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

A Russian expedition to the depths under the North Pole this August took samples of the seabed and planted a Russian flag to symbolically stake the Kremlin's claim. Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States all have territory 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, it has been attempting to gather scientific evidence to back claim. Russian geologists estimate the Arctic seabed has at least 9 billion to 10 billion tonnes of fuel equivalent, about the same as Russia's total oil reserves. Russia is the world's second biggest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia.

More Information on the UN Security Council
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More Information on The Dark Side of Natural Resources
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