Friday, April 27, 2012

Will the Arctic be the Next Place of Conflict?

Hunters react to proposed mines, road in Canada's eastern Arctic
CBC News
Thursday, 26 April 2012
MMG eyes zinc, copper at Izok Lake and High Lake
Hunters and trappers organizations in the Kitikmeot region of Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut are voicing their concerns about a proposed mining project.
Chinese-controlled Minerals and Metals Group (MMG) wants to build a zinc mine at Izok Lake, a copper mine at High Lake and an all-weather road connecting the two.
Willie Aglukkaq, the manager for the Gjoa Haven Hunters and Trappers Association, is paying close attention to how those possible mines will impact the McClintock channel.
The government has already put a moratorium on polar bear hunting there.
"Now we're afraid with all the ships going through there, they'll definitely be impacted because of the shipping route. The board is afraid the polar bears are just going to move away to other areas," said Aglukkaq.
Aglukkaq said the association is also concerned about chemicals from any mining activity leeching into nearby streams and rivers.
Heidi Klein, with MMG, said she heard the community's concerns.
"We know we'll have to certainly go back and get more from the communities as time goes on," she said.
The company has already made some early promises. It has ensured that the all-weather road won't affect the migratory route of caribou – the road will be closed during calving season.
Despite his concerns, Aglukkaq said he is excited about the prospect of more jobs and money going into the area.
MMG has been consulting with various communities the past couple of weeks. It's in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, this week.
The company plans to put a proposal before the Nunavut Impact Review Board this June.
Gold fever in Nome, Alaska has troopers, Coast Guard fearing the worst
Alex Demarban, Alaska Dispatch
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Fearing a frenzy, an outreach campaign off the hopeful shores of Nome begins in five weeks, when the US Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers and other agencies hold a series of meetings designed to offer safety tips and warnings to gold dredgers.
[Owner Ian Foster (left) and deckhand Scott Foster (right) aboard The Sluicey]
The dredging vessels made famous by Discovery Channel's "Bering Sea Gold" are a growing, unregulated fleet, and Coast Guard investigators and others worry about the safety of operators who flout laws, said Lt. Eric Thompson of the Coast Guard's investigation division in Anchorage.
"They've been out of sight, out of mind for years," he said. "Now they're on our radar. We'll be working with them to educate them and make them safe. Then we'll hold them to a standard."
Thirty dredging boats have grown to more than 50 in two years. More are expected this summer as a modern-day gold rush expands. Some of the boats are hodgepodge, homemade operations that work in close quarters. Some lack such required gear as life vests for every passenger and navigation lights. Some aren't registered with the state, as required by law, Thompson said.
Operators will hear about those requirements and others at the meeting as dredgers ready their rigs for a season expected to begin when the ice melts. The meeting is strictly educational. Citations will come later after people have been given a reasonable period of time to buy the gear they need.
"We're hoping to discourage people from watching the show and coming up here," said Thompson. "There's a lot of details people may not consider. Most important for us is their safety."
The meeting will include tips on boating, diving and cold-water survival. "A lot of them are under the misguided belief they can swim to shore. Until you have been in that water, you don't know how quickly hypothermia can kick in and how quickly you can be incapacitated."
One man died of a heart attack on his first-ever dive into the frigid Bering Sea waters last year. "It is my opinion he didn't grasp what he was getting into," Thompson said. "He officially died of a heart attack, but the environmental conditions could have led to that."
The educational outreach and enforcement efforts by the Coast Guard and Troopers will include drop-in visits early in the summer, Thompson said.
"We'll spot check, make sure everything is in order. If it's an immediate life-threatening issue, like they don't have life jackets, we'll tell them to stop for a day, go to port and get life jackets. We'll give them a bit of time to get other things, too" because stores aren't always stocked with boating equipment.
But after some weeks, investigators will return to Nome, ready to write tickets.
"We won't tell you a date when we'll be there, but it will come sometime this summer. We want to make sure people are prepared."
Canada's military ramps up Arctic communications
CBC News
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
The Canadian military's High Arctic exercise, Operation Nunalivut, is getting more tech-savvy.
The forces have been training in the region near Resolute, in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, for two weeks.
[Left: RCMP officer Cpl. Tom Cooke, from Pelly Bay, Nunavut, rides his snowmobile up a hill on Thursday March 29, 2007 enroute to Alexandra Fjord as part of sovereignty patrol Operation Nunalivut. The military has just ramped up its Arctic communications capabilities. (Dianne Whelan/Canadian Press)]
Lt.-Col. Glen MacNeil said they've made great progress in communications.
"This is the first time I've witnessed the technical commander of the forward element of the rangers group being able to do real-time chat not only to our headquarters here in Resolute Bay, but all the way back to Yellowknife," he said.
Before, the rangers were only able to connect with headquarters via radio and telephone. Now, they can communicate via a chat program.
"If the person in a deployed forward headquarter is talking to, let's say Yellowknife, then we can see what they're saying in Resolute Bay. So we have an all-informed net. So if anything is going on or we need something to happen, we can immediately communicate over that mechanism. It's great in terms of situational awareness," he added.
The 150-person task force has members from the Royal Canadian Navy, army, air force and rangers. They traveled by snowmobile and by air to do search and rescue exercises, and they even dove into the freezing, remote Arctic waters.
MacNeil said operating in these conditions proves the Canadian military can operate just about anywhere.
Operation Nunalivut ends May 1.
Top of the World: NATO Rehearses For War In The Arctic
The Western campaign for global dominance has reached the top of the world.
By Rick Rozoff
Global Research, April 24, 2012
Stop NATO and
URL of this article:
To the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources and long-dreamed-of sea-lanes. Rick Rozoff scrutinizes the feverish military activity taking place in the High North, under the official label of a joint Norwegian-NATO-Partnership for Peace endeavor, including preparedness drills against terrorist threats, mass demonstrations...and spies coming in from the cold!
Cold Response 2012 military exercise in Nordland, Norway. The yearly air land and maritime exercise is organized withing NATO with a UN mandate.
The largest military exercise in the High North, inside and immediately outside the Arctic Circle, since the end of the Cold War (and perhaps even before) was completed on March 21 in northern Norway.
Except for the crash of a Norwegian military transport plane in Sweden during its course the world would have been unaware of it.
Cold Response 2012 was conducted from March 12-21 primarily in Norway but also in Sweden with the participation of 16,300 troops from fifteen nations as part of full spectrum – air, sea, infantry and special forces – maneuvers against the backdrop of the past three years’ new scramble for the Arctic.
The term High North is a translation of the Norwegian designation nordområdene which was adopted by NATO in January of 2009 for its two-day Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North in Reykjavík, Iceland attended by the bloc’s secretary general, chairman of its Military Committee and two top military commanders, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
Four of the five Arctic claimants – the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark – are members of NATO. The other, Russia, is not. In 2010 Norway became the first Arctic nation to move its military command center within the Arctic Circle, transferring the Norwegian Operational Command Headquarters from Stavanger to Bodø, a five-story complex built during the Cold War to withstand a nuclear attack. The preceding year Norway purchased 48 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth generation multirole fighters.
Last month’s Cold Response was the largest of five such exercises held since 2006. The first was the largest military exercise ever conducted in Norway, with 10,000 troops from eleven nations. All NATO member states, at the time 26, were invited to participate.
The next, in 2007, included 8,500 military personnel. The third, in 2009, consisted of 7,000 troops from eleven nations and the fourth, in 2010, included 8,500 soldiers from fourteen nations.
This year’s Arctic drills were almost twice as large in terms of troop numbers as any preceding one.
Information on the exercise was scarce before, during and after the event; even the full roster of participating nations was not disclosed by the Norwegian military.
According to the website of the Norwegian Armed Forces, military forces from fifteen nations were involved – NATO members Norway, the U.S., Britain, France, Canada and the Netherlands – as well as Partnership for Peace affiliate Sweden, part of whose territory was employed for the exercise.
The other eight nations were not identified but the exercise was described as a joint Norwegian-NATO-Partnership for Peace undertaking. One of only a handful of English-language reports on the subject, from Finland, confirmed that nation’s participation. Finland and Sweden are for all intents the 29th and 30th members of the Alliance.
The other Partnership for Peace states involved are likely to have been, among others, former Soviet republics like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.
According to the Norwegian Armed Forces, “The main purpose of this year’s winter exercise is to rehearse high intensity operations in winter conditions within NATO with a UN mandate.”
The source added: “Participants will rehearse deploying and using military reaction forces in an area of crisis where they have to handle everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats and mass demonstrations. The soldiers have to balance the use of diplomatic and military force.”
High-intensity warfare, terror threats and mass demonstrations in the Arctic...
It also described live-fire infantry, naval and air – with the participation of fighter jets and helicopters operating from several Norwegian and Swedish bases and from aircraft carriers – components of the exercise.
The ground forces included U.S. Marines. According to the Marine Corps Times, “After years of fighting in a desert environment, most Marines may not think of the North Pole often, but the area abounds with oil, gas and other minerals, making it one of the most contentious regions of the world.”
The same source quoted a national security and Arctic expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a New American Security with the improbable name of Will Rogers:
“The importance of why we need forces capable of operating in the Arctic is very basic power projection — to make a show to other players in the international community that we are an Arctic nation, and we are going to protect our interests in the Arctic Circle.”
Britain deployed HMS Illustrious, its last-remaining aircraft carrier, which had to return home early for repairs after being rammed by a tugboat, thereby eliciting a few paragraphs in the Daily Mail.
A Norwegian C-130 Super Hercules military transport plane crashed in Sweden, killing five soldiers. A memorial service was presided over by King Harald V, the titular commander-in-chief of the Norwegian armed forces.
The assault ship HMS Bulwark accompanied HMS Illustrious, which carried eight helicopters, and the first landed British commandos as well as American and Dutch troops, equipment and vehicles on the northern Norwegian coast.
In the words of the commanding officer of the Bulwark:
“It is not simply park the ship and offload it. In war – and therefore in training – we have to take account of the environment, enemy forces in the air, sea, and on land, coordinate people into boats and naval helicopters, all to arrive on target, in the right order, at the right time, to achieve the battle-winning effect. Few navies deliver this successfully and most aspirants look to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Fleet Air Arm, with our war-proven capability, for guidance – on the sea in the air and on the land.”
Regarding “war-proven capability(ies),” Defense Media Network quoted U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General James M. Lariviere, commanding general of 4th Marine Division, present for the occasion:
“It was an opportunity to interact with our allies. Many of them are veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anti-piracy task forces off the coast of Somalia. They all have a lot of experience working with the U.S. and our allies in various capacities...”
The U.S. uses the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway’s Fosen peninsula for Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway, the Marine Corps’ only land-based prepositioning program. According to a U.S. European Command article of last year:
“Well guarded within 671,000 sq. feet of six climate-controlled caves, $420 million worth of Marine Corps equipment and supplies lie ready for real world use. The caves, located in Norway, serve as a key strategic storage site for the Marine Corps....The Norwegian caves are strategically located to provide support to the United States Marine Corps’ operations around the globe...[T]he equipment from the climate controlled caves of Norway has seen action in places as diverse as the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.”
The Helsingin Sanomat, which reported 215 Finnish soldiers participating in the exercise, characterized Cold Response 2012 as “a major military training exercise being held in the far north of Norway [in which] armed forces from 14 nations are protecting civilians in the same way as last year in Libya, and are fighting against the local opposition just as in Afghanistan.”
The newspaper also quoted a Finnish military media and communications officer stating, ”It would be silly to rehearse a situation if it were not realistic.”
A Swedish website, which identified Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Latvia and Switzerland as having also supplied units for Cold Response, published a synopsis of the scenario for the Swedish part of the exercise provided by the Swedish Armed Forces, which included:
A “strange group of people” have settled in northern Sweden and established a state called “Gardaland” from which they have invaded “an area in Norway,” after which NATO intervenes under a United Nations mandate.
The Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands reported a potpourri of unrelated and even conflicting scenarios that leaves the door open for any pretext for military intervention:
“The Netherlands Defence organisation sent 800 military personnel to take part in the exercise, including a large maritime detachment and units from the army and air force. The Dutch units left the Norwegian training area on 21 March, after a simulated attack lasting 48 hours. The emphasis was on beating off air attacks, combating submarines and covertly landing amphibious units. The scenario also included taking terrorists into custody.”
The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 was deployed to the Norwegian Arctic island city of Tromsø for the exercise. NATO established a Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, which at the time hosted the nation’s military command headquarters, in 2003. According to NATO’s Norfolk, Virginia-based Supreme Allied Command Transformation, the center is “the jewel in the Crown of Allied Command Transformation”.
On the opening day of this year’s Cold Response, Igor Korotchenko of Russia’s National Security Journal put the event in geopolitical perspective:
“The current military drill takes place amid NATO’s increased activities in the Arctic. Apparently, NATO is set on obtaining a share of Arctic resources and is carrying out the naval exercises to demonstrate that its geopolitical and diplomatic efforts lean on military might.”
Vladimir Yevseyev of the International Security Center of the Institute of Global Economy and International Relations, as cited by Voice of Russia, added:
“[T]he exercises are being held on the territories of Norway and Sweden, in close proximity to Russian borders. They might thus be seen as a provocation. Russia has all grounds for concern given that ships equipped with the...Aegis Combat System can be deployed in the Arctic.”
The last sentence is an allusion to the U.S.-NATO sea- and land-based interceptor missile system, which thus far is limited to Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea but could well expand into the Norwegian, Barents, Baltic and Black Seas in future.
The Western campaign for global dominance has reached the top of the world.
Rush for Arctic's resources provokes territorial tussles
US, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway are becoming embroiled in disputes over boundaries on land and at sea
Terry Macalister, Wednesday 6 July 2011
Two nations on opposite sides of the Nato military alliance divide – Russia and Norway – have signed a deal over who owns what in the Barents Sea. But there are plenty of other territorial tussles going on – some between good friends.
[Left: The submarine USS Annapolis reaches the frozen Arctic Ocean surface after breaking through three feet of ice. Photograph: U.S. Navy/Getty Images]
The United States and Canada still disagree on the setting of the boundaries in the Beaufort Sea – an area of intense interest to oil drillers.
Similarly, Canada has yet to resolve a dispute with Denmark over the ownership of Hans Island and where the control line should be drawn in the strait between Greenland (whose sovereignty remains with Denmark) and Ellesmere Island.
But of even greater significance in a world of melting ice floes is control of the North West Passage. Canada insists that it has sovereignty over the sea route and therefore must be asked about usage. The US sees it as a potential area of open water which gives it automatic right of passage for its battleships.
Canadians were incensed when Americans drove the reinforced oil tanker Manhattan through the passage in 1969, followed by the icebreaker Polar Sea in 1985, both without asking for Canadian permission.
The Svalbard archipelago, north-west of Norway, is already covered by an international treaty signed in 1920. But that does still not stop friends like Britain and Norway having disagreements over the way the treaty has been interpreted.
Norway has been given sovereignty and responsibility for administering the fishing rights and safeguarding the environment.
But it is also meant to give other signatories to the treaty – Russia, the US, China and the UK – equal rights to exploit Svalbard's natural resources four miles onto the continental shelf. The problem is that Norway does not regard the archipelago as having its own shelf, leaving scope for conflict. A major oil discovery off Svalbard would undoubtedly trigger a row.
Meanwhile the US and Russia still have a disagreement over the exact maritime border from the Bering Sea into the Arctic Ocean. A deal was signed with the then-USSR, but Russia has refused to ratify it.
All Arctic nations still have a major disagreement over who owns bits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, most particularly the 1,800km Lomonosov ridge. Claims are being submitted under the Law of the Sea Convention.
Growing Battle Over Arctic Natural Resources – but can Countries Agree?
Jorgen Heikki, Sr Sami Radio
Thursday, 05 May 2011
The ice is melting in the Arctic, intensifying the battle for its natural resources.
[Left: Annika E Nilsson, Arctic researcher at Stockholm Environment Institute. Photo by Jörgen Heikki, SR Sámi Radio]
The ice is melting in the Arctic, intensifying the battle for its natural resources.
These points are highlighted in two recent reports by the Swedish Institute for International Affairs.
Most eager is Russia, which considers the Arctic to be its greatest resource, according to Russia expert Ingmar Oldberg.
In his latest report, Oldberg notes that about 13 percent of Earth's oil reserves and 30 percent of its
These points are highlighted in two recent reports by the Swedish Institute for International Affairs.
Most eager is Russia, which considers the Arctic to be its greatest resource, according to Russia expert Ingmar Oldberg.
In his latest report, Oldberg notes that about 13 percent of Earth's oil reserves and 30 percent of its natural gas are in the Arctic – natural resources that will now become available as the polar ice melts.
"Of course Russia knows about these resources and hopes to find more," says Oldberg.
Russia claims about half of the Arctic surface and demonstrated as much in 2007 by attaching a Russian flag to the seabed at the North Pole.
But the Arctic is also important militarily for Russia. Its northern fleet outnumbers the total military capabilities of the other Arctic countries in the area.
Annika E Nilsson, an Arctic researcher at Stockholm Environment Institute, also recently published a report about the Arctic.
She sees no major risks of conflicts among the countries over Arctic wealth. The struggle for natural resources mainly involves different national interests, often with Indigenous people as one of the parties, according to Nilsson.
"Land use in northern Sweden is a classic Swedish example. The struggle involves mining vs. hydro vs. reindeer. Similar examples can be found in Russia," says Nilsson.
Despite the wealth that awaits in the Arctic, border disputes are relatively few.
Russia and Norway recently agreed on a border in the Barents Sea. According to Oldberg, the Arctic countries are only involved in a few minor disputes.
Canada and the United States are arguing about the boundary in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. Hans Island (Greenlandic/Inuktitut: Tartupaluk), west of Greenland, is a point of contention for Denmark and Canada.
Oldberg believes that the Arctic's natural resources may instead result in greater cooperation.
"Russia has the most resources, but lacks the technological capability to exploit the resources of the sea. That's where western companies and governments can help out," says Oldberg.
The Inuit prepare to defend their rights
Now it's their turn
The Economist
Mar 3rd 2011
WHEN in the Arctic, you should at least treat your host well. Royal Dutch Shell, an oil giant, had to learn this the hard way when planning to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska a couple of years ago. The firm had spent $84m on offshore leases and had satisfied regulators. But it failed to win over the Inupiat, an Inuit group. They worried that icebreakers and drill ships would hurt the bowhead whales on which they depend. Their leaders and environmental groups sued American regulators for not following a 1970 law on environmental impacts. This allowed them to wrest a number of concessions from Shell, including a commitment to stop all offshore operations during the bowhead migration and hunt, should drilling ever proceed.
Much has been made about conflicts between Arctic states because of a retreating polar ice cap, which will make many natural resources accessible for the first time. But so far, the disputes have been of a different kind. Shell’s experience in Alaska is being repeated around the North Pole. And such clashes are bound to become even more common. Native groups claim much of the Arctic coast as their traditional territory (see map)—and are prepared to fight for their rights. In late February representatives of the Inuit met in Ottawa to discuss a common position on resource development in the High North.
In fact, countries surrounding the Arctic do not have much to argue over. The resources on land lie within clearly delineated borders and those under the sea—which include an estimated 83 billion barrels of oil, more than Russia’s proven reserves today—are largely in shallow waters within the uncontested jurisdiction of coastal states. “There is no race for Arctic resources, and no appetite for conflict,” says Michael Byers, author of the book “Who Owns the Arctic?” Instead of getting into a fight, he points out, Norway and Russia last year ended a decades-long dispute.
In contrast, potential for conflict with native groups is in rich supply. In particular the Inuit live in areas where natural resources are plentiful. And although they are only a small minority—an estimated 160,000 of them are spread across the Arctic—they have achieved a degree of power. Greenland, a territory of Denmark with a predominantly Inuit population, assumed self-rule in 2009, giving it control of its resources. Nunavut, a vast northern territory in Canada, was created a decade earlier by a settlement with the Inuit.
What is more, the Inuit are determined not to be bowled over. They have amplified their power by banding together in the Inuit Circumpolar Council, (ICC), a body created in 1977. They have used their membership of various United Nations bodies to compare notes with indigenous groups from around the world. They have teamed up with other Arctic dwellers such as the Sami of Scandinavia and the Dene of north-western Canada. And they have sought expert legal advice for their common position, which is due in May.
The Inuit are not against development, but want to ensure that it happens on their terms. This partly means sparing the environment—but it also means receiving their share. “For centuries the Arctic lands and waters have been exploited by everybody—except the Inuit. Now it’s our turn,” Kuupik Kleist, Greenland’s prime minister, said at a meeting in Ottawa. The territory is counting on offshore oil and gas to speed its way to independence. It allowed exploration to proceed last year when others were hanging back after the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Other delegates spoke dismissively of companies that, a while back, had talked Inuit into bad deals. In one case a firm supplied poor communities in Russia with a crate of vodka and some food. In another a company in Canada tried to buy access to a nickel deposit in Quebec by offering cash and two ice resurfacers for the local rink.
Yet it was the Inuit success stories that most grabbed delegates. One example is the Red Dog Mine in northern Alaska. Created as a joint venture between the operator, Teck Alaska, and the local Inupiat, it has fed much cash—$146m in 2010 alone—into the Inupiat’s coffers. Such deals may be too steep for the appetite of many resource companies with Arctic dreams. But the increasingly interconnected Inuit are unlikely to settle for less in one country when they know what their counterparts have received in another.
The Inuit know that they will not always get what they want—in Russia, say, where the rights of the Yupik, another Inuit group, are enshrined in the constitution but are being eroded by the government. On the other hand, events in the Middle East will only make their oil and gas more desirable. “Development is going to happen”, says Edward Itta, the Inupiat leader who wrested the concessions from Shell, “whether we like it or not.”
Countries in tug-of-war over Arctic resources
By Marsha Walton
January 02, 2009
One of the planet's most fragile and pristine ecosystems sits atop a bounty of untapped fossil fuels.
Melting polar ice is making the Arctic more accessible to shipping and other industry.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 90 billion barrels of oil, 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are recoverable in the frozen region north of the Arctic Circle.
And the fight over who owns those resources may turn out to be the most important territorial dispute of this century. Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland all have a stake in the Arctic's icy real estate.