Russia to make law on Arctic territories (Barents Observer/RIA Novosti)

Barents Observer 2011-11-01, original article here.
Russia’s Arctic territories will become a separate object of state policy. A federal law on this subject is expected to be prepared in 2012.

– The place and role of the northern territories in the country’s socio-economic development pre-determine the need to single out the Arctic zone as a separate object of state policy, a draft concept of the law reads, according to RIA Novosti.

Russia's Arctic zone is to be singled out as s seperate object of state policy. Parts of Arkhangelsk Oblast, where this picture is taken, is considered to be part of the Arctic zone. (Photo: Trude Pettersen)

The draft concept has been prepared by the Ministry of Regional Development and has been handed over to the Government for approval. The final law will be prepared in 2012 as part of Russia’s state program for economic and social development of the Russian Arctic in 2012-2020.

The authors of the draft believe that development of the Arctic zone should be a top national priority, like development of Siberia used to be:

– The Arctic is a veritable storeroom of natural resources – 27 million square kilometers of the Continental Shelf where 70-75 percent of the mineral and biological resources of the world’s oceans and seas might be concentrated.

The Russian Arctic zone includes the entire Murmansk Region, the Nenets, Yamal-Nenets and Chukotka Autonomous Areas, as well as some parts of Karelia, the Komi Republic, Yakutia, the Arkhangelsk Region and the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The Arctic zone’s territory also includes coastal lowlands of the Arctic Ocean, basins of rivers flowing into the Arctic seas, indivisible administrative-territorial entities, as well as major resource-production complexes being serviced by the Northern Sea Route.

Russian site could be late Neanderthal refuge

By MALCOLM RITTER, Associated Press 05/19/2011 Original article here

NEW YORK — Scientists have identified what may be one of the last northern refuges of Neanderthals, a spot near the Arctic Circle in Russia with artifacts dated to 31,000 to 34,000 years ago.

Stone tools and flakes found there look like the work of Neanderthals, the stocky, muscular hunters who lived in Europe and western Asia until they were replaced by modern humans, researchers reported today in the journal Science.

The site lies along the Pechora River west of the Ural Mountains, about 92 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Researchers dated it from animal bones and sand grains. Nobody has found any human bones or DNA that could provide stronger evidence that Neanderthals lived there, report the scientists, from Russia, France and Norway. The artifacts had been collected during various expeditions.

Richard Klein, a Stanford University professor of anthropology, said the artifacts do look like the work of Neanderthals, but that it’s also possible they were made by modern people instead.

Neanderthals were not previously known to be in that area, nor convincingly shown to be present anywhere at such a recent time, he said. Finding another site or human bones would help settle the question, he said.

Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City of New York, cited a 2006 study that suggests Neanderthals occupied a cave near the southern tip of Spain at about the same time as the new work puts them in Russia. Maybe the two locations show how Neanderthals retreated in opposite directions from the encroachment of the modern humans, he said.

Russia to ratify maritime border pact with Norway within month – Lavrov

07/03/2011 RIA Novosti original article here

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov

Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will ratify a maritime border demarcation treaty with Norway within a month, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

Last year Russia and Norway signed a deal to delimitate their maritime border in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean after 40 years of negotiations.

Both countries have been disputing the 175,000 square km area since 1970. The absence of defined maritime border often resulted in detentions of fishing vessels in the region.

The agreement has also paved the way for the lifting of a 30-year-long moratorium on oil and gas extraction in the previously disputed zone.

“We were discussing the vital issue for our states [maritime border demarcation pact]…Norway has ratified the pact. Russia has just started the ratification. We are planning to settle it within a month,” Lavrov told a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Russia, however, is still in a dispute with Canada over the Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean, with both countries trying to persuade a UN commission that it is an extension of its own continental shelf. The sides have agreed that scientific evidence should resolve the dispute.

KALININGRAD, March 7 (RIA Novosti)

Arctic oil drill splits Norway’s government

Euractiv.com 14 March 2011 -original article here

Norway’s Labour-led coalition government is preparing for crisis talks after one of its parties, the Socialist Left (SV), pledged to hold out against oil drilling in the pristine Lofoten region.

The oil industry views the untapped waters around the Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands as one of the best remaining prospects off Norway, the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, whose output has fallen by a third in the past decade. But Norway’s green and socialist movements oppose oil and gas activities in the region, which is home to Europe’s largest cod stock and unique cold water reefs.

A decision on whether to order an impact assessment study for drilling in Lofoten – the most divisive issue in Norwegian politics – is due within weeks. On March 9, Labour MPs asked Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to negotiate a way out of the stalemate with SV, possibly by changing the study’s name or tweaking its scope. But the Socialists rejected this. “We can’t accept any study that leads to opening the region for oil and gas activities,” SV’s energy spokesman Snorre Valen told Reuters. “We simply won’t compromise on this.”

Oil industry pressure
The ruling coalition has survived for six years, partly by delaying decisions on the Lofotens. But pressure from the oil industry, trades unions and some local people is forcing Labour to move on the issue. The SV environment minister Erik Solheim played down the chances of a government collapse to the Aftenposten newspaper.

“The government has for the past six years shown a phenomenal ability to survive. We have like Lazarus risen from the dead, and several times at that,” he was reported saying. Norway’s oil row comes as a report by the US National Academy of Sciences warns of a new struggle for oil and gas resources in the Arctic by 2030. Melting ice cover due to climate change will upset the Arctic power balance and intensify unresolved disputes among countries with Arctic borders. These include Norway, the US, Canada, Denmark, Russia, Iceland, Sweden and Finland.

“The geopolitical situation in the Arctic region has become complex and nuanced, despite the area being essentially ignored since the end of the Cold War,” the study says. It predicts a low chance of conflict but cautions that that “co-operation in the Arctic should not be considered a given even among close allies.”

(EurActiv with Reuters.)

Background

The resource-rich Arctic is becoming increasingly contentious as climate change endangers many species of the region’s flora and fauna but also makes the region more navigable. Up to 25% of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas could be located there, according to the US Geological Survey.

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states of the USA, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland) have a 200 nautical mile economic zone around their coasts.

In August 2007, a Russian icebreaker reached the North Pole and a Russian mini-submarine planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed there. The move was widely interpreted as a bellicose claim by Russia to the North Pole seabed and its resources.

Norway covers between 10 and 18% of EU oil demand and about 15% of its natural gas. The country, a member of the European Economic Area since 1994, is the world’s third largest exporter of oil and gas after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

By 2015-2020, natural gas deliveries from Norway to the EU are expected to grow from 85 billion cubic metres to 120 bcm, covering 7-9% of the EU’s entire gas consumption by 2020.

TNK-BP moves closer to Russian arctic

MOSCOW, March 7 (UPI) – original article here
Anglo-Russian energy venture TNK-BP could join Rosneft and Gazprom in developing the Russian arctic shelf if terms are good, the Russian prime minister said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said TNK-BP might be able to persuade its oil and natural gas colleagues to tap into more domestic natural resources if the terms are favorable to all parties involved.

“There is a law, under which we have entrusted Rosneft and Gazprom with work on the shelf,” Putin was quoted by Russia’s official RIA-Novosti news agency as saying. “If TNK-BP offers suitable terms of joint work to one of the companies it can (join the project). Why not?”

TNK-BP, a joint venture between a group of Russian billionaires and BP, is at odds with the British supermajor and Rosneft over an asset swap that included exploration deals in the Russian arctic.

BP in January agreed to pay Rosneft more than $8 billion in shares for a 9.5 percent stake in the Russian energy company in addition to a development agreement for the Kara Sea on Russian’s northern continental shelf.

Putin brushed off the historic rival between TNK-BP and its London counterpart by noting any rivalry is an internal matter for each company to address.

“These are their problems, they must solve them between themselves,” he said.

Russia enhances control in the Arctic

Barent Observer 2011-03-02 original article here
 

FSB Border Guard soldiersFSB Border Guard soldiers
Photo: Trude Pettersen 

The Russian border guard service plans to establish a monitoring network in the Arctic from Murmansk to the Wrangel Island.

The monitoring network will ensure effective control over the Arctic, says First Deputy Commander of the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) Border Guard Service Colonel General Vyacheslav Dorokhin, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The Northern Sea Route is currently controlled from the air by FSB aircrafts, on the western part of the route by vessels from the border guard service in Murmansk and on the eastern part of the route by coast guard vessels from the North-Eastern Border Guard Agency, Dorokhin says.

The general underlines that the Arctic is a priority area for the FSBs border guard service.

Arctic railway launched, Barents Observer reports

Barents Observer 2011-03-03  – Original article here
The new railway line connecting the Yamal Peninsula with the rest of the Russian railway grid is declared open to regular traffic. Regular operation of the 572 km long railroad to its terminal point – the Karskaya station – was launched in February 15. The line connects major regional installations like the Bovanenkovo gas field with national key infrastructure. The Obskaya-Bovanenkovo railway line will enable Gazprom to easily ship huge quantities of goods and construction materials to its field development sites in Yamal. -The opening of this railway will facilitate all-year-round, quick, cost efficient and not-weather-dependent transport of goods and personnel to the fields in Yamal under the harsh Arctic conditions, a press release from Gazprom reads. Unline other Russian railway lines, the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line is owned by Gazprom. As previously reported, the Russian Railways have been invited to take over the line, but has shown little interest. Read also: Russian Railways does not want Gazprom’s Yamal railway In addition to railway and field development in Yamal, Gazprom is also investing in the laying of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline.

Text: Atle Staalesen