Environmental Policy News

Russia Presents Claim of Arctic Seabed to United Nations

On 9 February 2016, Russian Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoy formally presented his country’s claim to Arctic Ocean seabed to a United Nations commission. If the committee accepts the claim, the seabed under the North Pole would be subject to Moscow’s oversight for activities such as oil drilling.


Russia submitted an application to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in August 2015, claiming that the Lomonosov Ridge and other parts of the Arctic seabed belong to Russia's continental shelf.

The commission had rejected on technical grounds an earlier application submitted by Russia in 2002.

Canada, Norway, and Denmark have also filed claims.

As much as 30% of unexplored global reserves of natural gas and 15% of unexplored oil reserves are estimated to lie in the Arctic's underwater fields.

Minister Donskoy told the United Nations that the preparation of the materials for the new application took more than a decade, including extensive research in the Arctic Ocean acorss nine geological-geophysical expeditions using research and atomic-powered icebreakers, as well as research submarines. He also noted that other nations with claims (Denmark, Canada, and the United States) do not object to the international body’s consideration of the claim. He did however mention that Russia’s claim overlaps substantially with areas listed in Denmark’s 2014 applicaiton, in particular the North Pole area and a part of the Lomonosov ridge. It is expected that a pending claim by Canada could also overlap with Russian claims.

However, he stressed that the three nations are actively consulting with one another. Donskoy expects that his nation’s application will be reviewed within two to four years, with examination of the extensive submitted materials begining later in February. Russia’s 2014 claim to a 52,000 km2 area in the Sea of Okhotsk was accepted, but a 2001 claim to Arctic areas was rejected. Donskoy says the new application scientifically addresses that 2001 critique. For more, click here.

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