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NEWS: Canada and the US meet to divide up Arctic oil and gas resources

The Vancouver Sun reports today that, “Canadian and U.S. government experts met quietly in Ottawa (on July 22) to begin trying to resolve a long-standing boundary dispute in the Beaufort Sea, a Canadian diplomat revealed Monday.”

“The two countries have disagreed since the 1970s over where to draw the ocean border. It’s a conflict that flares whenever fisheries management, oil-and-gas exploration or other resource development issues arise in the region. …(And) because the two countries are working to expand their seabed domains in the central and northern Beaufort — also potential petroleum targets — an area much larger than the traditional dispute zone is coming into play.”

“Allison Saunders, deputy director of the continental shelf division at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the gathered specialists in international law, hydrography and other fields had a productive discussion on the technical aspect related to the boundary and that a second meeting has been scheduled to take place in Washington next year.”


“News of the surprise talks was disclosed during a briefing by Canadian and U.S. officials on a bi-national seabed mapping mission to be conducted next month in the Beaufort region. …Beginning Aug. 2, scientists aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy and the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent will co-operate in a 42-day mission aimed at generating seabed data across a wide swath of the southern, central and northern Beaufort Sea. The information is intended to help the two countries prepare their respective claims under a UN treaty for extended authority over submerged territory as well as potential petroleum deposits and other seabed resources.”

The Canadian Press adds that, “Scientists say their work won’t sort out that dispute. But it will help both countries make claims over an even larger stretch of the Arctic extending beyond the currently allowed 380 kilometres from the coastline, as well as suggest where those Canadian and American claims are likely to conflict.”

“Canada’s submission to the UN agency on continental shelves is due in 2013.”


The Toronto Star reported on July 24, 2008 that, “the United States Geological Survey estimated the (Arctic region) has 90 billion barrels of ‘technically recoverable’ oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. …Much of the energy reserves lie in waters where sovereignty is disputed among Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark.”

The Canwest News Service has reported that these five countries “are positioning themselves to claim new undersea territory along the continental shelves and to exploit the potential oil riches, trade routes and tourism opportunities that an unlocked North could represent.”

On March 25, the Council of Canadians, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the REDOIL Network issued an open letter to the foreign ministers of these countries just prior to their Arctic Summit in Chelsea, Quebec this past March.That letter urged them to pursue a moratorium on all new exploration for fossil fuel resources in the Arctic region.

We will continue to campaign vigorously on this and intend to be at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting when these issues are discussed in Nuuk, Greenland on May 12, 2011.

For our five reasons to support a moratorium in the Arctic, plus additional information and how to take action, please go to http://canadians.org/arctic.

For campaign blogs related to Arctic drilling, please go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=%22arctic%22.

Today’s Postmedia/ Vancouver Sun article is at http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Work+underway+resolve+Beaufort+boundary+dispute/3324896/story.html#ixzz0usRSXuhG.