The eight countries in the group are all vying for resource rights in the region as ice melts and zinc, iron, oil, gas and rare earths deposits are unearthed.
International member nations of the Arctic Council are meeting in Finland this week to talk resource allocation, climate change and northern communities.
The eight countries in the group — Canada, the US, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden — are all vying for resource rights in the region as ice melts and zinc, iron, oil and gas and rare earth element deposits are unearthed.
Issues over waterway rights and security are also on the agenda as once frozen potential trade routes begin to melt, allowing quicker access.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed delegates of the 11th annual meeting on Monday (May 6), asserting America’s stake in Arctic expansion, expressing concern over China’s growing presence in the Arctic region and discussing the need to safeguard new trade ways.
“This is America’s moment to stand up as an Arctic nation and for the Arctic’s future,” Pompeo said in his remarks that day. “The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources.”
While China is not a member nation, it has had observer status with the organization since 2013 and has been increasing its presence in the area. Last year, the Asian powerhouse revealed its Arctic policy, which includes a “polar silk road” plan.
Arctic Council member state Russia has also been beefing up its role in the region, reopening Cold War-era military bases and updating its northern fleet, despite the Arctic Council mandating peaceful communication and dealings.
“Our meeting reaffirmed the commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic,” Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Arctic Council Chair Timo Soini noted.
Tensions between Canada, the US and Russia over Arctic rights have been longstanding and appear to be no closer to a resolution.
“No one denies Russia has significant Arctic interests,” Pompeo said. “We recognize that Russia is not the only nation making illegitimate claims. The US has a long-contested feud with Canada over sovereign claims through the Northwest Passage.”
While the majority of the chair’s statement dealt with the importance of protecting biodiversity and the indigenous people of the Arctic, he did allude to the need for a collaborative and unified effort in regards to economic growth.
“(The meeting) reaffirmed the role of the Arctic Council in promoting sustainable social and cultural, economic and environmental development in the Arctic, and in harnessing the economic potential of the region for the benefit of Arctic inhabitants and communities, and looked forward to the opportunities provided by wider application of innovative, resource efficient circular economy in the Arctic.”
The 11th annual ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council continued on Tuesday (May 7) in Finland.
Image courtesy of the Arctic Council.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.