Written by Alessandra De Martini
The desire to access the Arctic’s vast mineral reserves has always been a major driver of international attention towards the region. The Arctic is believed to contain 1,699 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and various other fuels, equal to the entirety of Russia’s oil reserves and three times those of the US (U.S Geological Survey, 2008). On top of this, by 2050, it is believed that the region above the Polar Circle may be completely ice-free, considering the rate at which the ice sheet is shrinking and the multiplier effect of warming seas and surface temperatures (La Rocca, 2022). This potential development could further increase the international race for Arctic raw materials.
Over the years, Arctic States have developed extensive regulatory frameworks, created extractive service sectors and accumulated good knowledge and human capital to regulate mineral exploration and extraction (Coninsx, van Loon, 2022). Furthermore, the Arctic waters have also a significant meaning for the countries’ hegemonic projection, since some governments, such as the Chinese one, are looking at Arctic passages as a valid alternative to traditional trade routes as they allow to avoid the US-controlled choke-points in the Pacific, the Strait of Malacca for example.