Russia has submitted a claim for additional territories along the continental shelf in the Arctic, and it overlaps one made by Denmark last year. The claim includes both the Mendeleev and Lomonosov Ridges, two major structures beneath the Arctic Ocean.
“The claim determining the outer borders of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean is based on the scientific understanding that the central Arctic underwater ridges – among them the Lomonosov, Medeleev, Alfa and Chukotskoye Heights, as well as in between the basins of Podvodnikov and Chukotskaya – have a continental character,” read an official statement from the Russians.
The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf will now decide if Russia should be entitled to include the huge areas under its sovereignty.
Denmark made first claim
The area includes the area of the North Pole that Denmark and Greenland laid claim to last December. That move was the first attempt by any country to claim ownership of the North Pole.
“The submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark,” Martin Lidegaard, the foreign minister, said at the time.
Russia claims that the Lomonosov Ridge, which goes straight across the North Pole, is a continuation of the Russian continental shelf.
The process of evaluating the claims can take as long as ten years. Should more than one country’s stake be approved, it will be up to them to negotiate an agreement.
If approved, the Russian claim would expand the country’s territory by 1.2 million square kilometres. Estimates indicate that the area includes 594 oil fields and 159 gas fields as well as two major nickel fields and more than 350 gold deposits.
Greenpeace to everyone: Keep Out
Environmental group Greenpeace would prefer that no nation be able to lay claim to the fragile Arctic environment.
Responding to the Russian claim, Greenpeace Russia Arctic leader Vladimir Chuprov wrote: “Countries like Russia want to turn the Arctic into the next Saudi Arabia. Unless we act, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes.”
Chuprov said Greenpeace’s desire that the uninhabited areas around the North Pole be protected “would not affect the sovereign rights of the countries involved, but would be an act of co-operation from our leaders that would secure their legacy forever”.