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Vol. 19, No. 33 Week of August 17, 2014
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Canada’s Arctic mapping

Two icebreakers collecting data to bolster country’s case for seafloor control

Gary Park

For Petroleum News

Canada has two icebreakers in the High Arctic collecting scientific data that is designed to bolster its case for control of the seafloor on the Continental Shelf, including the North Pole.

The Coast Guard vessels, Terry Fox and Louis S. St-Laurent, will spend six weeks on the mission “to ensure that Canada secures international recognition of the full extent” of the region, said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

The Geological Survey of Canada, GSC, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service, CHS, are responsible for the work, with the Louis S. St-Laurent equipped with state-of-the-art multi-beam sonar technology to provide Canada with the latest technology capacity to “maximize our chances of success in this challenging environment,” said Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford added that the GCS’s history of advancing knowledge of “our mineral resources” underpins the goal of making certain “the natural resources of this country support the long-term prosperity of Canadians.”

Partial submission in December

The survey work follows a partial submission made by Canada last December to the United Nations body that is considering claims from various countries to sections of the Arctic seafloor.

That submission laid claim to 1.2 million square kilometers, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper intervened to extend the claim which will result in a final submission at an unspecified date.

Scientists say early indications show the Lomonosov Ridge, which runs northward from near Ellesmere Island over the North Pole, is connected to the Canadian land mass, although Canada has so far conducted only aerial surveys of the ridge beyond the pole.

If ice conditions permit, the two vessels will include areas of the Eurasian basin in the vicinity of the North Pole.

Russia and Denmark have shown they are ready to do battle with Canada over the ridge, arguing it extends from their own shores, but the pole actually lies on the Danish side of a line that runs equidistant between Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who also has responsibility for northern economic development, said the bid to define Canada’s “last frontier” is aimed at expanding “our economic and scientific opportunities.”

Negotiations required

Rob Huebert, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Center for Strategic Studies, told the Canadian Press that completing claims will have to be settled by negotiations.

However, he said there is no reason why Canada shouldn’t secure jurisdiction over as large an area as possible.

Huebert said “nobody really knows what type of resources are up there.”

He noted that as international tensions have ratcheted up Russian President Vladimir Putin may view Canadian mapping of the seabed as a provocation and part of western efforts to encircle Russia, prompting him to “push back.”

In addition, Denmark is likely to take a tough stance, not wanting to easily surrender its claims to Arctic regions.

The Canadian government is planning a second mapping trip in 2015.



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