23 September 2011, 00:59

Russia pins hopes on its Arctic riches

Russia pins hopes on its Arctic riches

An international forum, devoted to exploring the Arctic, in now under way in the city of Archangelsk in Russia’s north.

An international forum, devoted to exploring the Arctic, in now under way in the city of Archangelsk in Russia’s north. The forum is named “The Arctic – a Territory of a Dialogue”.

Among the participants, there are Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Iceland’s President Olafur Grimsson and the Chairman of the Arctic Council Gustaf Lind.

Most of the forum’s participants agree that in the near future, the way over the Arctic Ocean will become one of the world’s major trade routes. However, they also agree that, while exploring the Arctic, people must be very careful not to damage its unique nature.

It is not for nothing that Archangelsk was chosen as the site of the forum. This city lays in the entry of the Northern Dvina River, which falls into the White Sea. This may make Arkhangelsk, among other Russian northern cities, an important port on this international route via the Arctic Ocean.

The way through the Arctic Ocean is the shortest way between Europe and Asia, shorter than the traditional southern routes by one third. It would be profitable for all if it becomes a constant international trade route which would link northern countries.

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says:

“Recently, we had a very successful trial delivery of oil and gas via the northern sea route. Forecasts say that by the end of this year, the total volume of the cargos delivered by the northern sea route may make 700 thousand tons. And, I hope, this is only the beginning. We are launching a large-scaled project which needs a contemporary infrastructure. It will stir the economic development of Russia’s northern territories – and it will create thousands of new jobs. We intend to modernize the already existing sea ports and to build new ones, like the port “Varandey” in the Yugorskiy Shar Strait, and the port “Sabetta” on the Yamal Peninsula. And, of course, other kinds of traffic in these regions – river traffic, highways, railways, airports – will also develop.”

It is planned to build 6 new atomic and 6 diesel electric icebreakers in Russia by 2020. Several days before the Archangelsk forum, the Russian government viewed a draft law which would regulate the boat traffic on the northern sea way. This law is expected to be adopted before the end of this year.

In the Far East, sea shelves must be exploited very carefully – experts say that if an accident similar to that in the Gulf of Mexico happens here, its results may be much more dangerous.

In the Archangelsk University of the North, the forum’s participants attended a presentation of an oil-extracting platform which had been created especially for the conditions of the Far East.

Vladimir Putin, Prince Albert II and Olafur Grimsson took part in a video conference, which was set on the occasion of launching such a platform in the Russian northern Barents Sea.

Experts say that the “Prirazlomnoe” deposit in the Barents Sea contains 72 mln tons of oil. The Russian giant gas company “Gazprom” intents to extract up to 6.5 mln tons of oil here each year.

However, what interested the foreign guests about this platform most of all, was whether is safe from the ecological point of view. A member of “Gazprom’s” board of directors Vsevolod Cherepanov assured them that the platform is well protected from waves’ blows and from any impact of ice. It is practically ruled out that any oil would once leak from it into the sea.

Today, it is the west of the Russian part of the Arctic which has been explored best of all. Vast oil deposits have been discovered in the Barents, the Pechora and the Kara seas.

“Gazpom” has worked out a program of exploring these deposits, outlined up to the year 2030. If implemented, this program will bring about 200 bln cubic meters of gas and 10 mln tons of oil.

Of course, it is not only Russia which wants to take profit from the vast oil and gas deposits of the Arctic Ocean. Even some countries which do not border with this ocean are interested in them. However, there exists a UN convention with clear-cut rules about how to regulate such disputes. A country which has signed this convention, if it wants to exploit the Arctic Shelf’s deposits, must prove that this shelf is an extension of its land territory.

Russia has already handled in a claim to the UN, asking to broaden the Russian borders on the Arctic Shelf beyond the 200 miles which are envisioned by this convention, but the UN said that Russia has to present some additional proofs of that.

Russian scientists believe that the Lomonosov and the Mendeleev crests of the Arctic Shelf are a continuation of Russia’s continental part. But Denmark and Canada also consider the Lomonosov crest an extension of their territories.

“However, Russia has a 100% proof that these crests are an extension of its land territory,” says Nikolay Lavyorov, Vice President of Russia’s Academy of Sciences.

“The results of Russian scientists’ research, which was made in the last few years, allow us to reconstruct the geological evolution of the Arctic. Their discoveries show that many thousand years ago, the Arctic Shelf used to be a part of the Eurasian continent, which was later flooded by the ocean.”

The coming, second day of the forum will most probably see new lively discussions.

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25 September 2011, 19:32