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'Russia can prove authority over North Pole'

world Updated: Sep 22, 2007 22:11 IST
Fred Weir
Fred Weir
Hindustan Times
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The North Pole is part of Russia and scientists have gathered the data to prove it, the Russian Natural Resources Ministry has announced.

"Results of an analysis of the Earth's crust show that the structure of the underwater Lomonosov mountain chain is similar to the world's other continental shelves, and the ridge is therefore part of Russia's land mass," the Ministry said in a statement.

Moscow has sent two expeditions to the far north so far this year, with a third slated for November, to gather rock cores and soil samples in support of the claim that the Lomonosov Ridge, which underlies the Arctic, is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

The 1982 Law of the Sea Convention establishes a 12-mile offshore territorial limit for each country, plus a 200-mile "economic zone" in which it has exclusive rights.

But the law leaves open the possibility that the economic zone can be extended if it can be proved that the seafloor is actually an extension of a country's geological territory.

Experts say the Ministry's announcement Thursday indicates that Moscow is ready to submit its legal claim for the region to the United Nations by the end of this year.

About a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves, along with vast troves of minerals and other resources, are thought to lie beneath the Arctic icecap.

Hydrocarbon reserves in the 1.2-million sq. km. territory Russia is claiming could be as great as 10-billion tonnes, experts say.

"We're talking about the world's largest or second largest reserves, worth hundreds of trillions of dollars," Russian academician Vladimir Fortov told the official ITAR-Tass agency.

With global warming melting the ice cover at a rate of ten per cent a year, experts believe the region may become open to economic exploitation within a few decades. The world's transport system may be radically altered as well. Russian experts say a sea passage between Asia and Europe over the top of Siberia, formerly blocked by ice most of the year, may become fully open by 2050.