The Russians claim to have discovered oil in Antarctica

The Russians claim to have discovered oil in Antarctica
The Russians claim to have discovered oil in Antarctica

Double the black gold reserves of Saudi Arabia or ten times the production of the North Sea in fifty years: this is what the Russian exploration boat Alexander Karpinski would have spotted, without drilling, off the icy coasts of the Weddell Sea. The information dates back, in fact, to four years ago but was only recently revealed by the British press, on the basis of documents from the environmental audit committee of the House of Commons.

If London is so worrying is that this discovery was made in a part of this continent of 13.66 million km² claimed by the crown of His Most Gracious Majesty. But the United Kingdom fears that Moscow will ultimately seek to circumvent international law, even if for the moment the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Rutley, preferred to show confidence in the Russian word by declaring that “Russia has recently reaffirmed its commitment towards the key elements of the treaty.

The interested party, although it has five research stations in these frozen confines of the planet, has, at least for the moment, no territorial claims in this part of the southern hemisphere, but could well be attempted to introduce discord among a set of partner, if not allied, countries, the Weddell Sea also being claimed by the countries of the southern cone of Latin America, Chile and Argentina, who have painful memories of their defeat during the Falklands War.

China is also starting to take a very close interest in this region of the world: in recent years, the Middle Kingdom has led forty expeditions to Antarctica and thirteen to the Arctic, thus showing its determination to become a great polar power as part of its strategy of global influence. Two years ago, Moscow and Beijing joined forces to oppose the extension of protected maritime zones in the region.

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According to Florian Aumond, lecturer in public law at the University of Poitiers, “Antarctica is part of a global power struggle, with on one side countries, mostly Western, which want restrictive environmental rules, and on the other hand Russia and China who want to relax them.”

A discovery that whets appetites by 2048

Adopted in 1959, the Washington Treaty on Antarctica, which initially included twelve signatories which grew to fifty-six, including the small republic of San Marino, provides that the vast icy expanses are a common good of humanity devolved scientific exploration and peaceful activities. The Madrid Protocol, which entered into force in 1998, prohibits the exploitation of mineral resources but not explicitly their prospecting.

Anne Choquet, teacher-researcher at the University of Western Brittany, recalls that Russia is one of the 29 countries with the right to vote during meetings on Antarctica. “The 1959 treaty froze the situation: the parties do not agree on the status of the continent but agree on the freezing of their territorial claims. 2048 will, in this respect, be a key date for the management of the balance of power: fifty years after the entry into force of the Madrid Protocol, it will be possible to renegotiate the opening of the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the area on the basis of more flexible rules than today”.

China is also starting to take a very close interest in this region of the world.

Seven nations claim portions of the territory of the White Continent, either because they constitute an extension of their territory or because they have discovered it. France, with Terre Adélie, the United Kingdom, Norway, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and Australia will therefore have to agree on a delimitation of zones which is likely to sharpen the appetites.

Note also that the global consumption of crude oil amounts to 36 billion barrels per year, this discovery would therefore postpone the famous oil peak supposed to mark the collapse of our current model of energy consumption, to the great dismay of the defenders of the environment.

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