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Geology, geopolitics, and the Law of the Sea

August 5, 2007

In the international game of territorial rights, geology matters.

Russia made news last week with their largely symbolic flag-planting on the Arctic sea floor at the north pole. The Arctic region is thought to host significant amounts of petroleum resources and, as the world’s demand for oil continues to grow combined with the disappearance of sea ice, nations wish to claim as much of this real estate as they can before exploration operations begin.

There is plenty of commentary out there on the blogs about this story specifically and the notion of Arctic oil exploration in general (e.g., here, here, and here) so I’m not going to focus on that. When I came across the short news article in this week’s Nature, I became more interested in what criteria are used to decide which nation gets what when it comes to the sea floor.

The Nature article is here, you’ll have to have a full license to see the whole thing, but I will quote a bit of it below.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows states an economic zone that extends 200 nautical miles from their coastline. To increase this, countries must prove to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf that their physical continental margin extends farther than this.

The map from the Nature article (right) shows the 200 nautical mile line as a blue dotted line. Russia thinks they deserve more. They are claiming the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of their continental shelf, which would significantly extend their sea floor territory.

If Moscow can prove that the structure of the continental shelf under the ocean is geologically similar to that of Russian land, it may be able to extend its territory. The Lomonosov Ridge, which it sees as a continental extension, is key to its claims. Russia hopes to claim 1.2 million square kilometres and, with it, the rights to copious mineral and fossil-fuel reserves.

Check out the full UN Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty here. If you go to the section on the continental shelf, you’ll find this statement as part of the definition:

The continental margin comprises the submerged prolongation of the land mass of the coastal State, and consists of the seabed and subsoil of the shelf, the slope and the rise. It does not include the deep ocean floor with its oceanic ridges or the subsoil thereof.

Emphasis mine. My first impression is that the Lomonosov Ridge, being an oceanic ridge and all, should therefore not be part of the definition of a states continental shelf territory. If a state disagrees with this determination, then they need to formally contest it with this UN entity, which they did, according to the Nature article:

In 2001, Russia became the first country to make a submission to the United Nations. It was told to supply more information, in particular about the Lomonosov Ridge, which runs under the Arctic Ocean between Russia and Canada. Russia claims this ridge is an extension of its Siberian shelf, but this is hotly contested by Canada and others.

What is the Lomonosov Ridge? I’m not an expert on Arctic geology, so I welcome any comments or links to better sources (especially resources in Russian). A quick search uncovered a 1992 Geology paper by Jokat et al.:

The 1500-km-long and 50-70-km-wide ridge rises 3 km above the adjacent abyssal plains and divides the Arctic Ocean into the Eurasian and Amerasian basins.The ridge is postulated to be a continental fragment severed from the margin during the early Cenozoic opening of the Eurasian basin.

The Jokat et al. paper makes some conclusions about the origins of the ridge based on multichannel seismic-reflection data they acquired:

The geometry and attitude of the deposits below the ridge unconformity strongly suggest the Lomonosov Ridge is the remnant of a prograding continental shelf facing the Makarov Basin.The progaded ridge flank facing the Makarov Basin indicates an early history of slope-rise sedimentation into the basin that existed before the Lomonosov Ridge separated from Eurasia.

On the map at the top of the post, the Makarov Basin is the region shaded in orange above where it says Lomonosov. Assuming these conclusions are correct, then Russia’s (and maybe Norway’s little section) paleo continental shelf did include what is now the oceanic ridge. But, of course, the determination is on the present configuration, right? Well, Russia is indeed claiming that since the ridge originated as part of the Siberian shelf, then it is still theirs.

Talk about opening a can of worms. Imagine if the UN allowed arguments of current territorial boundaries to be determined by where the territory was 10s of millions of years ago! That would get interesting.

How will all of this affect scientific research in the Arctic? I think it’s a double-edged sword in many ways. The prospects of opening the region to resource development will create major problems for researchers getting access to certain areas. On the flip side, a lot of mapping and imaging of the sea floor needs to be done to figure all of this out. The UN has said that their is “insufficient data” to resolve this. I’m certainly hesitant to be gung-ho about opening the relatively pristine Arctic region to petroleum operations, but, at the same time I get excited about the prospects of increasing our overall understanding of that region through sea-floor mapping, which is very expensive.

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

Get more information about the map above here.

Note: this post cross-posted on August 8th, 2007 edition of www.geology.com/news
Additional information on Lomonosov Ridge from Olelog here.


Cold War Goes North; Kommersant

Wikipedia’s page on the Lomonosov Ridge, which has a nice collection of links related to Russia’s territorial claim.

W. Jokat, G. Uenzelmann-Neben, Y. Kristoffersen, and T.M. Rasmuessen, 1992, Lomonosov Ridge; a double-sided continental margin: Geology, 20(10):887-890

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Chuck permalink
    August 5, 2007 11:12 pm

    An additional complication is that at least some of the Arctic basin has no oceanic crust, as a result of extremely slow spreading rates. Since the definition only specifically excludes crust, and not sperpentinite mantle, I’m sure the lawyers will have their fun.

  2. Miguel Vera permalink
    August 6, 2007 9:21 am

    Very nice documentation, I hadn’t really paid attention to the subject but now that I know the deal I think it will be interesting to see how this evolves. Thanks for the info Brian.

  3. Sabine permalink
    August 6, 2007 9:59 am

    Like you, I would love for us to know more about the Arctic basin, but I am not *at all* thrilled about the idea of petroleum exploration there.

  4. Kim permalink
    August 6, 2007 8:03 pm

    That sure is a can of worms. Just to complicate the Arctic even further, the Bering Strait is continental crust, and the peninsula at the northeastern corner of Russia is on the North American plate.

    Part of my grad school research group was working on the evolution of the Canada Basin. Ten years ago, at least, the geometry of its opening was controversial.

  5. Kent permalink
    August 12, 2007 12:45 am

    And now we have a “joint Danish-Swedish expedition — with its path toward the pole being cleared by a chartered Russian icebreaker, and with one Canadian scientist on board the research vessel”…

    http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=9426400f-de86-497d-92df-f7bbcaab602d

  6. Brian permalink
    August 12, 2007 11:16 am

    kent…thanks for the link, i think it got cut off…was it this article ??

    Here’s the key quote: “Mr. Sander said “preliminary investigations done so far are very promising” and suggest the disputed Lomonosov Ridge — a 1,500-kilometre undersea mountain range that runs past the pole between Siberia and North America — is a geological extension of the northern coast of Greenland.”

    It’s all about that ridge….it will be very interesting to see how the powers that be decide this.

  7. October 1, 2007 11:48 pm

    There are other reasons why this treaty should not be moved through the US Senate so quickly.

    One of the most blaring omissions in the statement coming from the US military in support of the UN Law of the Sea Convention is a thorough analysis of the treaty’s more than 45 environmental articles, regulations and protocols, and numerous other standards that could be used to diminish the military’s right to freedom of navigation/ innocent passage.

    In addition, recent reports have been released that reflect that the US military will be increasing its reliance on private contractors more than 50% during the next 5-10 years. The myriad activities of private contractors designing, formulating, producing, testing, delivering and deploying technologies for military application are highly unlikely to qualify for exemption as ‘military activities’ under the UNCLOS. The military brass is quite confident, at least publicly, about how they could unilaterally determine what is or is not a ‘military activity’ for purposes of qualifying for the treaty exemption. And, they believe that they could fit all such activities neatly under one ‘military activity’ tent. They are unlikely, however, to succeed in exempting their supply chains.

    Furthermore, the environmentally-obsessed EU member states have 27 votes for every 1 vote cast by the US at the UNCLOS Secretariat meetings, which the administration has been less than forthcoming in explaining.

    Lastly, there remains a quaint notion within US constitutional law which is commonly referred to as ‘due process’. In the context of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings that are now underway, this means transparency and a thorough publicly aired review. Unfortunately, this has not yet occurred considering that a number of house and senate committees possess oversight jurisdiction which they have yet to exercise to review the various dimensions of the UNCLOS that have not been considered in light of new international environmental law developments since the previous UNCLOS hearings. The American people are entitled to know from their elected representatives how this expansive treaty which will reach into US sovereign territory (land, internal waterways and air above) and into the US regulatory and free enterprise systems, will affect American pocketbooks, small businesses and daily lives.

    The ‘LOST 45’ UN Environmental Restrictions on US Sovereignty

    By J. William Middendorf II* and Lawrence A. Kogan**

    During the past six months, a number of former and current administration officials have declared their support for the UN Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), the largest environmental regulatory treaty in the history of the world. Based on their recommendations, President Bush, as did his predecessor, former President Clinton, agreed to resubmit the LOST to the US Senate once again for ratification.

    These officials, many of whom are giants in the conservative movement, have argued that LOST ratification would ensure America’s national security, economic and technological vitality and positive standing within the international community. Regrettably, these claims are very much overstated.

    Granted, US LOST ratification would signal our acceptance of long-established customary international freedom of navigation principles, as the US Navy and Coast Guard have asserted. However, the general rule of “freedom of navigation/innocent passage” which the administration relies upon as the chief justification for binding America to this treaty has, over time, been eroded and diminished in scope by the LOST’s more numerous environmental regulatory exceptions.

    While the LOST contains only two articles (38 and 87) that refer expressly to the right of “freedom of navigation” and ten articles (17, 19, 21-25, 45, 52 and 211) that refer expressly to the related right of “innocent passage”, there are at least 45 environmental articles in LOST Part XII, plus countless others in Parts V, VII, IX, XI, XII, and XIII and Annexes I and VIII that effectively limit those rights. In addition to these ‘LOST 45 plus’, there are also two recent International Seabed Authority environmental regulations and at least one entire environmental protocol related to the LOST (the LOST UN Migratory Fish Stocks Agreement) which European nations have already employed to create ‘marine protected areas’ that even further burden such rights. Collectively, these overwhelming environmental restrictions on American sovereignty obligate the US government and private US citizens to preserve and protect the ‘marine environment’ and its ‘living resources’ against all kinds of possible human-induced ‘pollution’. This includes pollution generated from water, land and air-based sources (e.g., carbon dioxide), even those located within US sovereign territory, that could directly or indirectly impact the global marine environment. In other words, US courts would be compelled to interpret these LOST 45 plus over our own environmental laws should the US ratify the LOST. Tragically, very few US lawmakers are familiar with these LOST provisions or their relationship to numerous other UN environmental treaties.

    Hence, following LOST ratification, US military and commercial shippers would no longer be able to rely on the right to freedom of navigation/innocent passage as an absolute right. Indeed, a growing number of foreign governments and commentators hostile to US interests have argued that, under LOST “the right of unlimited freedom of navigation” is subject to “the obligation to protect the [marine] environment”. This LOST reality was previously corroborated by the Clinton administration’s Oceans Report Task Force organized by former Vice President Al Gore. In light of the LOST’s failure to define exempt ‘military activities’, the 1999 report then warned that the domestic and international environmental obligations imposed by the LOST were being manipulated by foreign governments and environmental activists so as to “conflict [with] the US military’s ability to test, train, exercise, and operate in the marine environment”.

    These findings should come as no surprise to this administration. Thirty years prior, the “father of the [first] Law of the Sea Conference”, Malta’s former UN Ambassador Arvid Pardo, declared that, “the new law of the sea must be based no longer on the notion of ‘freedom of the seas’ but on a new concept, the Common Heritage of Mankind (CHM).” Thereafter, Tommy Koh, Singapore’s former UN Ambassador and President of the third Law of the Sea Conference, described the LOST as “a global constitution for [the world’s] oceans” drafted in the image of the UN charter.

    This administration, presumably, is also aware that CHM was originally a central planning (socialism)-based wealth redistribution mechanism rooted in the Cold War era. And, with a little homework, it should have discovered that, since 1994 (when former President Clinton submitted to the US Senate LOST amendments that allegedly addressed former President Reagan’s objections), CHM has evolved into a prominent instrument of ‘soft’ socialism within the European-dominated UN environment and sustainable development (UNEP/SD) programs. CHM now encompasses the legal obligation erges omnes – ‘of all to all’, which serves as the primary UNEP/SD rationale for the global governance of the earth’s biosphere. In the context of the LOST, CHM mandates the establishment of a UN-sanctioned global environmental conservation trust that would protect and preserve, through strict non-science and non-economics-based international and national regulations, all human use and exploitation of the oceans and its living and nonliving organisms.

    Consequently, following LOST ratification, US commercial businesses including the US military’s industrial and technology suppliers could no longer undertake design, manufacturing, processing, disposal and delivery activities within the US in reliance upon current US federal laws. This is especially true, now that President Bush has forwarded, once again, for Senate ratification four other related UN environmental treaties that would require yet further amendments to existing US federal chemicals legislation.

    More importantly, each of these other UN treaties contain the same non-science and non-economics-based European environmental legal principle embedded within the LOST 45 plus, which this president and his predecessor only barely succeeded in defeating at the World Trade Organization (WTO). That legal nostrum is the ‘standard-of-proof diminishing, burden of proof-reversing’, ‘guilty-until-proven-innocent’, ‘I fear, therefore I shall ban’ ‘hazard (not risk)-based’ Precautionary Principle (PP). Unfortunately, the LOST dispute settlement mechanism, with its emphasis on adjudicating environmental rather than trade issues, is unlikely to yield the same positive results as those the US secured at the WTO.

    In fact, US LOST ratification would provide other LOST treaty parties (especially those in Europe) with a greater ability to employ their unscientific PP to gradually undermine US military, economic and technological superiority. Such nations, for example, could more easily preclude the US military’s civilian technology and industrial supply chain from designing, producing and delivering effective technologies, products and processes that maintain US military preparedness. They also could disrupt US military logistics by relying upon environmental hazard rather than risk assessments to restrict the otherwise “innocent passage” of vessels operated by the US military’s many private shipping contractors. This is extremely likely to occur where US cargoes passing through navigational straits and territorial waters of other LOST parties include alleged ‘hazardous waste’ and/or ‘dangerous’ substances such as liquefied natural gas, oil, coal, chemicals, computers, electrical and electronic hardware, and perhaps, even genetically modified foods, feed and seed. And, such LOST parties could also cite the existence of hypothetical environmental hazards to limit, on PP grounds, the innocent passage of US nuclear-powered military vessels.

    The lack of truth and public transparency surrounding the LOST are hard to ignore. By ratifying the LOST, the US would unleash Europe’s PP and subject US military and economic sovereignty to eventual UN dominance and control. Therefore, the US Senate must publicly review the LOST’s largely hidden environmental regulatory agenda BEFORE it renders its advice and consent. Only by exposing the LOST’s deep dark caverns to the light of day in public hearings convened by the various congressional committees possessing oversight jurisdiction, as had recently occurred in connection with the illegal immigration bill, would the US be able to avoid such a disastrous outcome. Anything less would shortchange Americans and violate their cherished US constitutional right to due process.

    * Ambassador J. William Middendorf II previously served as US ambassador to the Netherlands, the European Union and the Organization of American States and as Secretary of the US Navy.
    ** Lawrence Kogan is president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD), a nonpartisan, nonprofit, international legal research and educational organization, and has advised the Bush administration concerning Europe’s use of the precautionary principle to dominate international economic affairs.

  8. October 2, 2007 8:42 am

    Informed Laywer…thanks for the info; it seems you pasted in this text from some other lengthy document. This post and ensuing discussion is mostly about Arctic geology, especially of the Lomonosov Ridge, and how it intersects with this issue, but I’ll leave your info here.

  9. December 26, 2007 10:03 am

    Speaking of detritus, informed scientists need to familiarize themselves with the philosophical and psychological bases underpinning the hazard (rather than risk-) -based paradigm of health and environmental science being propagated by the European Union and American Europhiles…

    Precautionus Principilitis:
    A Psychosocial Disorder Causing Luddite Psychobabble ©

    Precaution as a Way of Life

    The moral, social and environmental cognoscenti of the new communitarian[2] movement for global governance hold the precautionary principle as a doctrinal article of faith. The philosophy advocates a ‘Better Safe than Sorry’ ethos to modern day living. One public relations expert remarked several years ago that Europe’s unilateral efforts to establish the precautionary principle as an absolute global legal standard reflects a deeper institutional and cultural aversion to risk not found in the United States. Sharp demographic differences between the two powers appear to support this fact; “European electorates are aging must faster than America’s, making Europeans more risk averse.”[3] As a result, geriatric Europeans reflexively fear the myriad uncertainties surrounding new technologies and industrial processes, especially unfathomable risks that populate the distant future, and potentially affect their health and environment, even though no actual proof of imminent risk of harm is present. Because of this fear, European elites and like-minded American Europhiles argue that such advances should be shunned, even if it means grinding global societal progress to a halt.

    FOR THE FULL ARTICLE See: http://itssd.blogspot.com/2007/12/precautionus-principilitis.html

  10. December 30, 2007 4:10 pm

    Informed Lawyer…again, you are simply pasting in your writing that has nothing to do with this post (nice try with the “speaking of detritus” intro, by the way).

    What does your essay have to do with Arctic geology?

    My guess is you won’t answer…seems like you are simply quasi-spamming so you can spread whatever it is you are talking about. Unless I hear back something substantive about the Arctic issue, especially within the context of the geological underpinnings and how they intersect with the geopolitics, I’m going to remove your spam.

  11. January 4, 2008 11:44 am

    Informed Lawyer…so? Do you have anything to add to this thread re Arctic geology? Last chance.

  12. January 20, 2008 1:46 pm

    The purpose of responding to your note/paper/essay/assessment above is NOT to spam you. Nor is it to provide information without substantiation. Rather, all of data I have provided has been extensively documented and supported.

    Rather, when educated and informed persons look at the UN Law of the Sea Convention, they must look beyond the ostensible scientific issues. The attention paid by the media to the ‘race to the north pole’ to extend continental shelves, and thereby EEZs, is more than just economic and technology-based.

    What is truly at stake with the UNCLOS is more than conservation, preservation or geological scientific exploration and studies.

    Rather, what is being hidden beneath the surface, to use an oftenmade ‘pun’, is perhaps the largest environmental regulatory regime ever conceived of by humankind. This UNCLOS is undergirded by political philosophy of global governance that is reminiscent of the centralized top-down, state-driven, wealth redistribution universal schemes of the Cold War Marxist era, that has verifiably made a come-back in western Europe in another form – what Czech President Vaclav Klaus refers to as ‘soft-socialism’.

    Please see the New & Improved ITSSD Journal on the UN Law of the Sea Convention, accessible at: http://itssdjournalunclos-lost.blogspot.com .

    There are three other blogs to support these findings, as well:

    ITSSD Journal on Economic Freedom http://itssdeconomicfreedom.blogspot.com

    ITSSD Journal on Intellectual Property Rights http://itssdinternationaliprights.blogspot.com

    ITSSD Journal on Pathological Communalism http://itssdpathologicalcommunalism.blogspot.com

  13. January 20, 2008 6:34 pm

    Informed Lawyer … I appreciate the larger issues and implications but this particular post and thread was focused on the geology.

  14. January 21, 2008 8:44 pm

    I thank you for your consideration of the larger issues, one of which IS scientific in nature. It concerns a major challenge to the prevailing scientific paradigm of risk assessment, with respect to the identification and evaluation of possible versus probable public environmental and health harms triggered by new and existing products, processes and activities.

    The ITSSD’s Advisory Board is very concerned that Europe’s global promotion of the hazard, NOT risk-based Precautionary Principle is largely, if not mostly politically motivated.

    This version of the Precautionary Principle: 1) eschews economic cost-benefit analysis; 2)reduces the scientific and legal threshold for establishing the existence of an environmental or health ‘danger’ which must be stringently regulated; 3)reverses the legal burden of proof from the government to show harm, to the industry and company to show 100% safety (no harm); and 4) bypasses intellectual property protections because of the ‘public’ nature of the threats allegedly posed by products, processes or activities.

    Even geologists like yourselves concerned with Artic geology should be concerned that you will be unable to ‘own’ the results of your scientific research and discoveries, or the synthetic products and processes derived therefrom, pursuant to the UN Law of the Sea Convention’s central legal tenet: the ‘common heritage of mankind’ doctrine. This doctrine essentially transforms the global commons, consisting of the ‘Area’ surrounding the seabed floor (above, on, and below), the water columns and the atmosphere above into a ‘RES COMMUNIS’, public property rights which cannot be proprietized.

    The International Seabed Authority (ISBA) can, in enforcing its growing number of environmental regulations which cover scientific exploration and discovery, impact decisions along the continental shelves of coastal states.

    In other words, ITSSD research has revealed that the UNCLOS is much more an environmental regulatory treaty than popularly believed. And, it is being reinterpreted by European Union member states as reflecting the hazard-based version of the Precautionary Principle which has evolved as an international environmental legal norm since the UNCLOS 1994 Implementing Agreement.

    It is not unlikely that what scientists can and cannot do will increasingly be determined by unaccountable ISBA regulators working for the UN, should the US ratify the UNCLOS without proper public hearings.

  15. January 21, 2008 10:45 pm

    So, what do you think of the origins of the Lomonosov Ridge? Do you think it’s a remnant of Makarov Basin?

  16. January 22, 2008 7:42 am

    Interesting that you should mention this. The last time the Russians submitted their ‘scientific’ studies to substantiate their claim to underwater ridges, the US, working behind the scenes with Norway (Denmark was not then a party to the UNCLOS) was able to subject those studies at the UN to extremely rigorous scrutiny.

    Ultimately, as you are aware, their data proved inconclusive and the UN Continental Shelf Commission refused to make any determination pending the submission of additional information.

    This new effort by Russia to claim an extended EEZ is based largely, if not entirely on ‘new’ claims to the Lomonosov Ridge.

    So, my answer is yes. We have done the research on this but have not reported it since more qualified specialists like yourselves ‘are on the case’.

  17. January 22, 2008 9:19 am

    Informed Lawyer says: “So, my answer is yes. We have done the research on this but have not reported it since more qualified specialists like yourselves ‘are on the case’.”

    That’s ridiculous. I’m not an expert in Arctic geology. I’m not ‘on the case’. I’m not sure what you mean by that. I’m a guy with a blog.

  18. Caitlyn permalink
    January 23, 2008 5:56 am

    I have seen the claim from opponents of the Convention that the US was able to influence the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in spite of the US not being party to the Convention. While the US did send information to the Commission, there is no evidence that the US submission was considered. The Commission had no duty to consider submissions from non-parties and its members may consider it inappropriate to do so. There was no follow up from the Commission to the United States regarding the submission, so the idea that the US affected the decision-making of the Commission is without basis and may be wishful thinking by opponents of the Convention.

    This issue has both geologic and political dimensions. Politically, I think that the most important aspect of this matter is that Russia actually did submit its claim for examination by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Given that Russia has had a historic claim over much of the region covered by their submission, I find it impressive that Russia submitted its claim of sovereignty over the continental shelf and its resources to an international body, following international law instead of demanding that its claim be recognized as initially submitted. Peaceful resolutions of issues such as this was one of many objectives of the Convention.

    Geologically, it will be interesting to resolve. My study of marine geology is pretty dated and I have been learning a lot to catch up to current understanding of the Arctic. It is clear that Russia has a very large shelf, both in the strict geologic definition and in the rather creative and expansive definition we negotiated in the Convention based on a broad margin rather than the shelf alone. Most interesting from the public perspective will be the determination of whether the Lomonosov Ridge (including the north pole) is a submerged extension of the Russian land mass and a natural component of the continental margin. The latter part seems true since the ridge is a separated section of the margin that extended north of Russia and Greenland and not a part of the oceanic ridge system, but whether it is a submerged prolongation of the Russian land mass will be an interesting question for the Commission.

    But as interesting as the control of the geographic north pole may be, practical interest should be on the larger expanse claimed as part of the extended continental shelf from the Bering Strait up to the Lomonosov Ridge. A cursory look as undersea charts suggests that much of this area may well fit the definition of the Convention without controversy, but it will await the Commission to make that determination.

    The big question is – does the Russian claim matter to the US? Authority over the Arctic extended continental shelf is not a zero-sum game for the US. In the area claimed by Russia, the seabed will be managed either by Russia, possibly a bit by Denmark or by the International Seabed Authority – the US has no basis to claim any of that region. From the perspective of energy supplies, it is important that jurisdiction, right of exclusive access and title to recovered minerals be resolved because commercial investment and development won’t occur before those rights have widespread international recognition. Who is recognized as having control may be less important than having it controlled at all.

    Does Article 76 of the Convention matter to the US? Potential investors say they cannot and will not invest in areas that are not internationally recognized as being under US control. This applies not only to the prospective claim to the Chukchi Plateau north of alaska, but to areas south of Alaska, on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and around the territory of Guam. Once claims in those areas are recognized, they will be targets for exploration and may be developed long before the harsh and hazardous areas in the far north. Potential investors and the US government say Article 76 matters to them, but to others who have little at stake in the issue, it may not matter at all.

  19. January 23, 2008 9:16 am

    Caitlyn … thanks for your comments … they definitely add to the discussion.

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