(Voice of Russia, 28 March 2012) -- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has endorsed projects for a permafrost seedbank in Yakutia and research into the impact of global climate change on Arctic nature in that part of Siberia. Developed by local specialists and presented at the UNESCO Paris headquarters earlier this week, the projects will be part of the UNESCO-sponsored global warming assessment monitoring. Here is what Chairman of Yakutia’s Innovative Policy Committee Dmitry Safonov told reporters: "The UNESCO is preparing a large-scale program it plans to launch in 2013. It will focus on climate change and related scientific aspects such as the degradation of permafrost, the productivity of biosystems and the environmental and even humanitarian components, in other words, the effects of climate change on society, on people inhabiting certain territories." The Arctic is a region where climate change has been the most dramatic, which can best be seen in Yakutia. Degrading permafrost causes a rapid decrease of landmass. A research station will be built on the island of Samoilovsky in the Lena delta, where complex studies in various fields will be carried out, said Dmitry Safonov: "These include natural processes, nature management in the Arctic and the dynamics of the coastal and deep-sea permafrost in the eastern Arctic. In the geological bloc, it’s seismotectonics and paleogeography of Arctic Siberia. And there will also be a humanitarian bloc studying of the cultural and historical heritage. The Arctic boasts many interesting sites telling of famous explorers and expeditions of the great Arctic exploration era." Unlike most of the existing world seedbanks, the future cryo-repository in Yakut permafrost won’t need refrigerators to maintain temperatures at the required level, nor will it need electricity to power the equipment. Even compared to the European Union cryo-repository built on Spitsbergen in natural conditions, it will have significant advantages, says Professor of the Novosibirsk Institute of Cytology and Genetics Nikolai Goncharov. "If temperatures rise 5 degrees, the ice on Spitsbergen will melt and the EU cryo-repository will have to use refrigerators. For this to happen in Yakutia, a 20 degree warming is needed. The thick layer of permafrost is an eternal and ecologically clean system resistant to cataclysms."
Posted 2 April 2012; 4:08:25 PM. Permalink
(UArctic News, 28 March 2012) -- The University of the Arctic (UArctic) today reached a new level of cooperation with the indigenous organizations that are permanent participants in the Arctic Council. By signing a Memorandum of Understanding with these organizations, UArctic formalizes and strengthens a long-standing relationship with these organizations that goes back to before the University of the Arctic was created. Already, in the feasibility study phase of UArctic the (then) three indigenous peoples permanent participant organizations drafted a statement of support and a challenge to the new organization entitled, “With Shared Voices”. Jan Henry Keskitalo, UArctic’s Vice-President Indigenous, has been working to reinvigorate this relationship by increasing communication and cooperation between UArctic and the permanent participants in the Arctic Council. This Memorandum of Understanding reflects that work, and our common commitment to work together to ensure indigenous issues and perspectives are reflected in all our activities. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the parties during the Senior Arctic Officials meeting of the Arctic Council in Stockholm, Sweden on March 28, 2012. Attending the signing ceremony will be UArctic president Lars Kullerud, representatives of the permanent participants, and some invited guests. This agreement brings UArctic another step towards increased cooperation with indigenous peoples as formulated in the UArctic Strategy 2008-2013. The cooperation between UArctic and the permanent participants will help to ensure that higher education in the North meets the needs of the region’s indigenous peoples, as well as reflecting the significant contribution of indigenous knowledge systems.
Posted 2 April 2012; 3:59:37 PM. Permalink
(Tom Fries/The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Security Studies, 2 April 2012) -- Only have a few minutes to read? Here’s the most interesting and informative writing from this week: 1. Michael Byers on Canada’s icebreakers, in the Globe and Mail. 2. A good article on the delay in Shtokman, and on Gazprom more generally, from BusinessWeek. 3. Good blog post from Tom Barton on road construction in the Yamalo-Nenets region. 4. The history of Ellesmere Island’s name, from Nunatsiaq Online. I would also like to add my own thanks and praise, for whatever it’s worth, to that of the Quebec Newspaper Association for the staff of Nunatsiaq Online, who provide seriously high-quality, information-rich writing on a wealth of different issues in Canada’s Arctic. ...
Posted 2 April 2012; 3:50:53 PM. Permalink
(IceNews, 31 March 2012) -- Herdís Þorgeirsdóttir has decided to submit her candidacy for this June’s election for the President of Iceland. She declared her intention to run at a press conference at Reykjavík Art Museum yesterday. She is the first woman to stand for President so far for this year’s election – and her decision follows a groundswell of public support for the professor to stand; not least on Facebook. Herdís is 58 years-old, is a doctor of law, and is a certified lawyer and a political scientist. She was made a professor at Bifröst University in 2004. She is also one of the owners of the Víkur legal bureau. In July 2009 she was elected president of the European Women Lawyers’ Association and she was re-elected in 2011. She has worked for the European Council on human rights issues and for the European Union on workers’ rights and equality issues, DV.is reports. She is the Icelandic representative on the EU Venice Commission and chairman of the Venice sub-commisson on human rights.
Posted 2 April 2012; 3:09:10 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver, 27 March 2012) -- Norway has started preparations for a new coal mine on the Arctic Arcipelago of Svalbard. This week the Norwegian contractor Veidekke started construction of a three kilometer long road to Mount Lunckefjell across the Martha glacier. “The biggest challenge is to get all the machinery and equipment transported from Svea across the glaciers”, says Jostein Nordstrøm in Veidekke Contractors to Svalbardposten. His company has to clear tons of snow and ice away before they can start building a new road through the frozen glacial soil. The road is expected to be ready in August, and then the actual work on digging the new mine can start. Lunckefjell contains some 8.2 million tons of sales coal according to the mining company Store Norske. The company regards exploitation of the deposit as a natural continuation of the current mining operations in Svea Nord. Costs connected to opening of the new mine are estimated to be some NOK 1 billion. Norway’s current coal mine in Svea Nord will run out of resources within the next few years. The state-owned company Store Norske in September 2010 adopted a business plan for opening a new coal mine in Lunckefjell, just north of the current mine. The Norwegian Government gave green light for the plans in December 2011, after the Ministry of Environment came to the conclusion that the new coal mine can be opened without coming into contradiction with the environmental laws and regulations on Svalbard. A dilemma for the new mine in Lunckefjell is that the mine, although underground, will slightly be in the vicinity of the Nordenskiöld Land national park.
Posted 2 April 2012; 3:07:25 PM. Permalink
(J. Pennelope Goforth/Alaska Dispatch, 1 April 2012) -- Ask any Alaskan if they have heard of the Manhattan and you’re likely to get a blank stare. Granted, it was more than 40 years ago -- but the voyage of the leviathan oil tanker Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969 launched the American rush to Arctic resources. Now, a new book by Ross Coen, Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan Through the Northwest Passage, tells the story of the ship. As the biography of an extraordinary vessel, the basic story is riveting enough: massive ship built as a fluke gains worldwide attention and becomes famous. Coen takes it further, placing the Manhattan at the nexus of global oil industry competitiveness and then weaving in the age-old question of who has the right of passage over the seas. Even before her bow crushed any ice, she spun the compass on conventional ways of thinking about the technology of moving millions of barrels of crude oil while accommodating nascent ideas of environmental protection. On the political intrigue front, Coen shows how the course of the ship’s trip through the waters of the Canadian Archipelago challenged the world’s notions of the sovereignty of the fabled Northwest Passage itself. These issues still persist today. The discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay not long before the Manhattan's journey cranked up the engines of the oil industry as they puzzled out how to get millions of barrels of crude oil from the frozen north to thirsty world markets. In a completely breathtaking move, Humble Oil & Refining Co. grabbed the helm, launching the Arctic Tanker Test. Their intent was to test a model of safely and profitably shipping oil through the ice fields, a feat no other industry rival had attempted. They boldly re-forged an obscure giant cargo ship into a mammoth ice-breaking oil tanker. Coen explains this marvel of modern science with exacting detail describing hull sensors, TV cameras and a wealth of technological breakthroughs.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:51:38 PM. Permalink
(IceNews, 5 March 2012) -- A three week Icelandic air space patrol mission by the German Luftwaffe begins today while discussion continues about a possible Nordic takeover. Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Össur Skarphéðinsson, says that air cover has been arranged for the country for the next two years. Iceland has no military of its own. There are serious discussions in progress about whether the Nordic countries should take over Iceland’s air defence from NATO. The US Air Force last took responsibility for Icelandic air space in August and now the Germans have taken over. There are around 150 German air force personnel taking part in the Icelandic operation and they have brought four F4 fighters with them; as well as some 40 shipping containers and a variety of motor vehicles. Exercises will take place this week around Akureyri and Egilsstaðir. The Minister for Foreign Affairs told RÚV that the German patrols and exercises are standard in nature and that the Americans will come in the summer and be followed by the Portuguese air force later in the year. Regular air patrols have been organised for the next two years and will be similar in nature to patrols over the Baltic nations and form part of the wider NATO preparedness mission over European airspace.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:48:15 PM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/BarentsObserver, 30 March 2012) --A bill regulating shipping on the increasingly popular Northern Sea Route might be adopted this spring. Talking at a press conference organized by RIA Novosti this week, a high-ranking representative of the Russian Ministry of Transport said that the new law will regulate interaction between stakeholders and organize issues of communication. “We intend to introduce special shipping regulations for the Northern Sea Route", Vitaly Klyuev said. He maintained that the bill might be adopted by the State Duma in the course of spring 2012. A part of the bill is the establishment of a new Northern Sea Route administration. According to Mr. Klyuev, the Ministry is also starting to upgrade all navigation maps for the route. By year 2015-2016 there will be no more “white spots” on the map, he confirmed at the press conference. He also said that the responsibility for the maps will be handed over from the Ministry of Defence to a non-military structure. The new maps will display depths along the route and consequently improve safety along the route, the ministry official underlined. According to international law, countries can regulate shipping only based on special environmental requirements, as well as in areas, which are covered by ice for more than six months of the year, RIA Novosti reports. Russia has already restricted foreign vessels’ access to several areas along the route, among them in the Kara Gate, the straits connecting the Barents and Kara Seas.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:44:27 PM. Permalink
(Postmedia News, 1 April 2012) -- New flame retardants meant to replace their toxic predecessors are showing up in the air around the Great Lakes in increasing concentrations and travelling as far north as the Arctic. These new findings raise a red flag that these chemicals need to be more closely examined to see if they accumulate in the environment and animals, according to Hayley Hung, a research scientist at Environment Canada, who found concentrations of tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) and tetrabromophthalate (TBPH) in both Canada's High Arctic and the Tibetan Plateau. "It's not just a localized problem," said Hung. "(They) could become a global pollutant." Hung said TBB and TBPH are among the components in Firemaster flame retardants that are used in everyday objects such as car upholstery, computer equipment, carpeting and polyurethane foam. They get into the air when they're applied (usually sprayed) onto products. The two compounds are meant to replace poly brominated diphenylether (PBDE) flame retardants after these were found to be toxic in the mid-2000s. (PBDEs have been detected in, for example, blood samples and breast milk and some studies suggest a connection between PBDE exposure and reduced fertility in women.) Hung's study as well as research by Ronald Hites at Indiana University shows particles from TBB and TBPH in air samples from cities and remote areas.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:40:53 PM. Permalink
(Alaska Dispatch, 1 April 2012) -- Hundreds of doctors, optometrists, dentists and veterinarians will fan out across 16 villages in western Alaska beginning April 9 in a joint military and medical readiness exercise called Operation Arctic Care. This will be the 18th year of the program coordinated by the Norton Sound Health Corporation. “The medical care provided by the doctors and nurses is usually unavailable in the villages,” Pattie Lillie of the Norton Sound Health Corporation said in a press release. “Health aides and mid-level providers see patients in the village and treat to the degree they can, and anything beyond their scope is referred to Nome or Anchorage. Having a doctor on site for even four or five days can make a difference.” Some 250 government and military medical professionals will fan out from Nome to smaller villages. Most are only accessible by air, so the Alaska National Guard will use an array of aircraft to ferry the medical workers and supplies in and out. Among them: UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; C-23 Sherpas, a small military transport plane; C-17 Globemasters, a four-engine military transport plane able to carry large equipment; and C-130 Hercules, a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. “The military gets an opportunity to conduct deployment training in a non-threatening environment,” Lt. Col. Sharolyn Lange, task force medical commander, said in a press release. “And we have the opportunity to assist underserved citizens living in rural Alaska.”
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:12:00 PM. Permalink
(News release via MarineLink.com, 1 April 2012) -- Russia [is] to commission Northern Sea Route hydrographic surveys to identify safe-water routes for large ships. Updated charts of the Northern Sea Route without the 'white spots' will be created in 2015-2016, in addition, the Ministry of Transport is planning to organize this year's transfer of jurisdiction from the Ministry of Defence to FSUE 'Hydrographic Enterprise' or in its own subordinate structure, said the deputy director of the Department of State Policy for Maritime and River Transport of Russia, Vitaly Klyuev. "We will increase the hydrographic work in the Arctic to the year 2015-2016 to get a real picture of the depths for safe navigation," he said at a news conference in RIA Novosti, devoted to the preparation of the Russian exposition at the World exhibition "Expo-2012" to be held from May to August in South Korea. According to Klyuyev, surveying the work in the Arctic will be done in conjunction with SCF and Rosatomflot. 'White spots' (areas without depth data) on the charts will not be covered throughout the whole region, but survey work will be concentrated on the Northern Sea Route in the interests of the safe navigation of ship traffic. According to Director of Non-Profit Partnership for the Coordination of Northern Sea Route Vladimir Mickle, over the past 20 years, soundings in the Arctic have been limited because of a reduction in the hydrographic budget. However, in 2011 funding was restored, and for the first time it was sufficient enough for seven survey ships to work on the route.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:10:20 PM. Permalink
(Julie Gordon/Reuters via MineWeb.com, 2 April 2012) -- TORONTO - The prospects of a mining boom in Canada's Arctic territory of Nunavut - once as bright as the Northern Lights - are fading fast as costs in the inhospitable region spiral higher, forcing writedowns on two major gold projects there. The sparsely populated territory has gained a reputation as one of the most promising regions in Canada for exploration, with prospectors promoting discoveries ranging from gold to uranium. But getting the ore out of the ground is a different story entirely. While climate change has made it easier to find mineral deposits in Nunavut, the task of mining is complicated by a lack of roads and other infrastructure, the still-crippling cold and the challenge of attracting and retaining an adventurous workforce. Agnico-Eagle Mines, which owns the only working mine in Nunavut, recently booked a partial writedown on changes to the mine plan at Meadowbank, while cash costs at the gold mine have risen to more than $1,000 per ounce. That happened just months after a fire destroyed the mine's kitchen, crippling staffing levels and slashing into 2011 gold output, illustrating how susceptible remote projects are to the even the smallest operational hiccups. "It is a high-cost part of the world to operate in," said Agnico's chief executive, Sean Boyd. "There are risks in that part of the world, no doubt about it."
Posted 2 April 2012; 12:53:22 PM. Permalink