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Environmental Concerns Raised By Canada's New Aggressive Policy to Exploit the Arctic

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 10/23/2008

The Prime Minister of Canada has recently commented on the natural resources located in the Arctic which technically belong to his country due to the continental shelf. His plans to access these resources have the potential to destroy an already weak ecosystem in the arctic and have upset many.

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    It may be the start of a new Cold War as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has now stated his plans to extend Canadian jurisdiction 200 nautical miles in order to fully be able to stake his claim on the valuable natural resources located beneath the ice in the Arctic. It is already known that a potential 90 billion barrels of “undiscovered, yet recoverable” oil is located in the area, along with plenty of natural gas, and liquid natural gases. His concern arises from the fact that as the ice caps continue to melt, these resources become more accessible and soon other countries will be making trips across the top of the earth to get what belongs to his country.

    Along with continuing to protect the Polar Bears that are placed in increasing danger as global warming continues, Harper plans to put $720 million dollars into development of a new polar ice breaker so as to continue the research of the resources located beneath the ice and otherwise survey the Arctic Ocean. The vessel will replace another and become the largest ice driller on the Canadian Fleet by 2013.

    Prime Minster Harper has said legislation will be put in place to mandate anyone who wishes to pass through the Canadian Waterways of the Arctic alert governmental officials of their intention to do so, which is a major change as currently this is a voluntary measure.

    From now until the end of 2013, a geological survey of the Arctic will be conducted to help Canada prove the existence of a continental shelf of at least 200 nautical miles because it is with this information they will be able to prove their right to claim these precious natural resources.

    The studies will be conducted in cooperation with the United States, as this will assist both nations in being able to determine the continental shelf delineations of the Atlantic. That being said however, America’s policy does not recognize Canadian rights to the resources located underneath the ice caps, and therefore this cooperative notion may only serve as a pre-emptive measure to keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. The 2013 deadline for Canada falls within the jurisdiction of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which confirms Canada’s sovereign rights to those resources upon proving the existence of a continental shelf within 200 nautical miles.