How to divide the Antarctic and its resources
Material posted: Publication date: 10-07-2013

The Russian government approved the decree, one of the main goals is "ensuring national interests of Russia in the Antarctic region".

Although officially these interests are largely limited to scientific research, at stake is much greater control over the vast reserves of minerals. However, unimpeded access to Russia can hardly count: there are too many competitors.


Land of the seven capitals

The Antarctic region, which is referred to in the decree of the Russian government, is a territory located South of 60 degrees South latitude. In boundaries falls South pool of the World ocean (usually this sector is called generalizing term southern ocean), but of most interest to States traditionally represented Antarctica. Unlike all other continents, since its opening in 1820, Antarctica remains essentially empowers the. More precisely, the rights to it sued seven of the countries, but still their claims remain largely unrecognized.

The first explorers of Antarctica are considered to be Russian sailors Thaddeus Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. On January 28, participants led their expedition were the first people to see the icy continent. Just two days to the shores of Antarctica came the court in the British expedition led by Edward Bransfield. First, who happened to land on the continent, allegedly became American hunters led by captain John Davis. In search of seals, on 7 February 1821 they moored to the shore of West Antarctica, where we spent about an hour.

The first claims on land in Antarctica in 1908 announced the UK, which declared sovereignty over a number of Islands, which are next to the already belonging to the British crown the Falklands. However, then London "took" only a little piece of Antarctica, but later, in 1917, the British Antarctic territory was declared in the entire sector of the continent (down to the South pole), bounded by the 20th and the 80th degrees of West longitude.

Claims of other countries on the southern continent were decorated in a similar way — in the form of sectors. In 1923 London "attached" to him under the New Zealand Territory of Ross narrow section of Antarctica between 150 degrees East and 160 degrees West longitude. It for the British crown in 1841 and claimed Navigator James Clark Ross, however, officially the Royal possessions of land were declared to be only 82 years later. Australian Antarctic territory was transferred to the metropolis of its former colony in 1933. It occupied the sector between 44 and 160 m degrees East longitude.

In 1924 Antarctic territory, Adelie Land — France got who claims to the area, which in 1840 was opened by the Explorer Jules Dumont-Durville. This sector was limited 136th and 142nd degree of East longitude and wedged in the Australian Antarctic territory, the British agreed.

Claims of sovereign States on territory in Antarctica

Another Antarctic power appeared in 1939 — then the sector between 20 degrees West and 44 degrees East longitude, was declared owned by Norway. The territory received the name of Queen Maud Land — in honor of the wife of the Norwegian king Haakon VII, Maud of Wales. The last one in 1940 and 1942 claims to Antarctic territory issued Chile and Argentina. The segments specified by their authorities, overlapped not only each other but also to the British. Another plot, Land Marie Byrd located between 90 and 160 degrees West longitude, and has remained unoccupied — official claim on him did not put forward any nation of the world.


The Antarctic Treaty

The situation around Antarctica, from the very beginning threatened a major international conflict. The applications of seven States to Antarctic territory expected elicited objections from many other countries — both those that also claimed a piece of the continent, and others prefer to see Antarctica as a neutral venue. The uncertainty of the status of Antarctica was complicated and research: by the mid-twentieth century, scientists used the continent as a unique research area, and the presence of national segments did not contribute to international cooperation.

Attempts to discontinue a section of Antarctica in the late 1940-ies has made the U.S. and India. However, they have conducted meetings and conferences no results. Progress has been achieved only in 1959 when 12 States signed the Antarctic Treaty — a kind of international code of conduct on the continent. In addition to seven of the candidate countries to territory in Antarctica, the signature under documents was put by the representatives of Belgium, USSR, USA, South Africa and Japan. All of them at the time the agreement was led on the continent of active research. Now the number of signatories to the Treaty increased to 50 countries, and are eligible to vote, only 22 of them — those whose researchers most actively involved in the exploration of Antarctica.

The core of the agreement was the notion that Antarctica is declared a peaceful area where it is prohibited to place any military bases, conduct maneuvers and testing of weapons, including nuclear. Instead, the region should become a platform for large-scale scientific research, the results of which the parties could freely share.

Совместное заседание Антарктического договора и Арктического совета, 2009 год
Joint meeting of the Antarctic Treaty and Arctic Council, 2009
Photo: Tim Sloan / AFP

No less important was the political aspect of the document: according to his Sixth article, he actually froze all territorial claims on Antarctica. On the one hand, the contract is made in such a way that attempts to challenge the claim of a party is simply impossible. On the other hand, the "owners" of the Antarctic territories no tools to confirm its sovereignty over these areas. As a result it deprived the arguments of both camps — and those who had territorial claims in Antarctica, and those who were disagree with them. At the same time, the Treaty established the principle of free access of its members to any areas of the continent.



Eliminating the danger of political conflict, the Treaty, however, left outside another equally important issue: access to minerals. As suggested by geologists, in Antarctica there are vast deposits of a large number of resources: coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, Nickel, lead and other minerals. However, the greatest interest for the majority of countries are oil and gas. The exact amounts are not known, however, according to some, in the region of the Ross sea (Australian sector) contains about 50 billion barrels of oil and over 100 trillion cubic meters of gas. For comparison, Russia's reserves of these hydrocarbons were 74 billion barrels and 33 trillion cubic meters respectively.

Attempt to discuss the possibility of mining the participants of the Antarctic agreement made in 1988, by adopting the relevant Convention. However, the document never entered into force, but instead in 1991, the parties signed the Madrid Protocol, which entered into force in 1998. According to this document, on the territory of Antarctica is strictly prohibited the mining of any minerals. However, this ban is not indefinite: the text of the Protocol should be revised 50 years after its entry into force in the year 2048. In some countries claiming territory in Antarctica, do not exclude that in the end, the industrial development of the continent can be resolved. In addition, there is a possibility that some of the parties to the Protocol will simply refuse to participate in it.

Obviously, these scenarios are cause for concern, especially for those countries that believe Antarctica. In practice, this has resulted in the execution of the provisions of the UN Convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994, have a serious conflict because of the need to define the boundaries of the continental shelves. On the Antarctic shelf immediately there were applicants from among the "owners" of the continents. On the other hand, the Antarctic Treaty expressly prohibits its participants to increase their holdings.

However, a solution was found. Three countries — Argentina, Australia, and Norway — have indicated the coordinates of the alleged offshore possessions in the Antarctic, however, asked the UN not to consider their status to the territorial dispute. Three more countries — New Zealand, France and Britain — just reserved the right to submit the request later. The only state of seven, which has not indicated his position became Chile.

Presentation of the "Antarctic" applications sparked a flood of objections. Of course, to argue started between Britain and Argentina, which claim to the same territory (in addition to Antarctica and they try to challenge each other Falklands and other Islands in the South Atlantic). Representatives of Russia, USA, Japan, the Netherlands, India and other countries filed statements about the need to maintain "neutral" status of Antarctica.


Equal chances

To have open conversations about mining in Antarctica so far, few dare. Meanwhile, around the icy continent it is obvious nervousness grows: virtually any move by any country to his side immediately perceived by contractors as an attempt to marginalize the "legitimate" owners.

Аэродром российской научной станции «Новолазаревская» в Антарктиде
The airfield of the Russian research station "Novolazarevskaya" in Antarctica
Photo: Alexei Nikolsky / RIA Novosti

For example, in the report of the Institute for international policy name Lowy (Lowy Institute for International Policy, document .pdf), prepared in 2011 for the Australian authorities, the Kremlin's actions are described as the real economic expansion. "In a government decree from 2010 about Antarctic strategy until 2020 categorically stated about the significance of Antarctic resources for energy and economic security of Russia, — the report says. — As a priority public policy objectives it mentions a comprehensive study of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, and the development of "progressive" policies designed to discuss the situation after the year 2048".

On the one hand, this strategy is only about "geological-geophysical investigations, which allow to make the necessary forward-looking assessment of mineral and hydrocarbon potential of the Antarctic". In other words, the authors of the program suggest not to get fuel, but only to investigate it. However, on the other hand, it is hardly a prerequisite for such research is purely scientific interest. In particular, if "comprehensive study of mineral, hydrocarbon and other natural resources of Antarctica" is intended to contribute to "the strengthening of Russia's economic potential".

In a similar vein, Australians and evaluate the activities of the Chinese, the purpose of which is entitled "assessment of potential resources and methods of their use". The report's author almost blames Beijing in Imperial ambitions: according to him, on one of the Chinese polar stations "hanging sign "Welcome to China", which indicates the desire for isolation and the refusal to recognize the claims of Australia".

Obviously, in anticipation of the expiration of the moratorium on mining nervousness around Antarctica will increase. The probability that in the context of global energy shortage, a ban on exploration and production of hydrocarbons will live forever, is not very high. It is not excluded that in order to prevent a full-scale confrontations will be signed a new agreement governing the work in Antarctica and on her shelf. And Russia, most likely, this section will not be more arguments than any other country.


Valentin Poppies

Source: "Tape.Ru"

Tags: forecasts , geopolitics , Antarctica