Resources from the edge

Nature's riches

Oil and gas

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has said that about 30% of the world's undiscovered gas and 13% of the world's undiscovered oil may be found north of the Arctic Circle, mostly under the sea in less that 500meters of water. The Russian Arctic has the largest deposits of natural gas in the world.

Changing economic conditions in newly industrialised countries has created an increasing market for oil and gas and climate change is making areas of the Arctic easier to access to extract these resources.

Effects of oil and gas production
  • Some jobs are created, but these are mostly manual work
  • Sometimes some of the money is invested in schools and services for local people.
  • People come in from outside the Arctic region.
  • These people bring with them different lifestyles and products which the indigenous people then use.
Pizza delivery!
Arctic Voice

Once the oil is out of the ground it has to be transported to refineries by pipeline.

  • Permafrost would melt if the pipeline was built on the ground
  • Tundra ecosystems will be destroyed by oil spills
  • This area is tectonically active
  • Migration routes of animals such as caribou will be blocked
  • Pipeline built above the ground on stilts
  • Pipeline built underground where there are caribou migration routes with special refrigeration to stop the permafrost melting
Alaskan oil pipeline

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of oil and gas production in the Arctic for the area and for the rest of the world.

One of the problems of oil extraction is that there may well be oil spills which could potentially harm the environment, particularly the marine environment. The Arctic Council States also signed a new, legally-binding Agreement in 2013 on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic which will substantially improve procedures for combatting oil spills in the Arctic. Find out more at Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response.


This could lead to a discussion about whether or not this is enough.

This information sheet tells you more about the geology of the Arctic region.


Meeting future energy demand

The Kyoto Protocol set standards for certain industrialized countries. Those targets expired in 2012. In the meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions from both developed and developing countries have been increasing rapidly. The United Nation's Climate change Conference in Doha in 2012 agreed to a new commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, a treaty that limits the greenhouse gas output of some developed countries, and affirmed a previous decision to adopt a new global climate pact by 2015.

In February 2013 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked at the Council on Foreign Relations;

We must limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees. We are far from there, and even that is enough to cause dire consequences. If we continue along the current path, we are close to a 6 degree increase.

Too many leaders seem content to keep climate change at arm's length, and in its policy silo. Too few grasp the need to bring the threat to the centre of global security, economic and financial management. It is time to move beyond spending enormous sums addressing the damage, and to make the investments that will repay themselves many times over.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

However there is a growing energy demand globally as countries in the developing world increase their use of energy for industrial and domestic purposes.


What is the role of the Arctic in meeting future energy demands?


Other minerals

The old hard rocks of the Canadian, Baltic and Siberian shields have significant deposits of iron ore, nickel copper, lead, zinc and uranium. Small mining communities have built up near these deposits.

Diamonds and gold have been discovered in newly exposed areas of Greenland.

There is a Russian coalmining settlement of about 1000 people at Barenstburg in Svalbard.

Barentsburg - a coalmining settlement in Svalbard
Raymond Molony

How do you think the reduction in ice cover will affect mineral exploitation?


How will mineral exploitation affect wildlife? Use the video of Nancy from Umingmaktok (near Bathurst inlet) to help you (video by Arctic Voice).

This presentation helps you to discover more about the effects of resource extraction in the Arctic.

Answer the questions at the end of the presentation using all the information in this section as well.


Home | 1: Climate change | 2: Living on the edge | 3: Arctic science | 4: Hunter or hunted? | 5: Postcard from the edge | 6: Troubled waters | 7: Resources from the edge | 8: Arctic Circumpolar Governance | 9: Snow, water, ice, permafrost | 10: Adapting to change

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