Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Rotating Header Image

‘Arctic Map’ could help divide natural resources

‘Arctic Map’ could help divide natural resources

By Paul Eccleston

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 06/08/2008



A new map of the Arctic has been drawn up by British cartographers which reveals the squabbling among countries staking a claim to its vast natural resources.

  • Diplomatic battle begins over Arctic
  • Russia accused of annexing the Arctic for oil reserves by Canada
  • Climate change ‘will spark global conflict’
  • It shows how neighbouring superpowers such as America and Russia are circling ready to gain best position in an expected carve up of the polar region.

    Map of maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic. Click to download PDF

    The race to find new reserves of oil, gas and minerals has led to the spotlight falling on the Arctic which is believed to contain about 20 per cent of the world’s untapped resources under its pristine ice.

    A year ago – to the fury of its neighbours – Russia sent a submarine to plant a flag on the seabed underneath the North Pole as part of its campaign to claim rights to a large part of the Arctic.

    Russia claims that its continental shelf extends along a mountain chain running underneath the Arctic, known as the Lomonosov Ridge, which it claims gives it the right to claim a huge territory.

    United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) says that if a state can prove its rights, it can exploit the resources of the sea and the seabed within its territory.

    So far all of the Arctic nations have stuck to the rules for establishing seabed jurisdiction set out in UNCLOS but Russia and Norway have made submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, and Canada, Denmark and the USA are likely to do the same.

    There are fears that the scramble for territory and resources in the Arctic has the potential to trigger a new Cold War.

    Now researchers at Durham University have drawn up the first ever ‘Arctic Map’ to show the disputed territories that neighbouring states might claim in the future.

    The new map design follows a series of historical and ongoing arguments about ownership and the race for resources in the 14m square miles of the frozen islands and northern edges of continental land masses that surround the Arctic Ocean.

    The Durham map shows where boundaries have been agreed, where known claims are, and the potential areas that states might claim.

    The Lomonosov Ridge is just one area of contention between countries and other disputes involve Canada, the US, Denmark (Greenland), Iceland and Norway.

    Under international law claims must be verified by geological surveys both on land and underwater to show how the land is configured.

    Cartographers from Durham’s International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU), which has built up an international reputation for expertise on boundary and territorial issues worldwide, hope it will become a vital tool in settling disputes.

    The director of research at IBRU, Martin Pratt, said: “The map is the most precise depiction yet of the limits and the future dividing lines that could be drawn across the Arctic region.

    “The results have huge implications for policy-making as the rush to carve up the polar region continues.

    “It’s a cartographic means of showing, and an attempt to collate information and predict the way in which the Arctic region may eventually be divided up. The freezing land and seas of the Arctic are likely to be getting hotter in terms of geopolitics; the Durham map aims to assist national and international policy-makers across the world.”

    More information can be found at

    This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

    Comments are closed.