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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Antarctica


No one owns Antarctica, the world does. All territorial claims were frozen by the Antarctic Treaty which guaranteed the continued use of Antarctica exclusively for peaceful and scientific purposes. The Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty is seen as a global benchmark for imposing very strict rules which included the removal of all huskies from the continent. The treaty nations agreed to place a suspension of activity on mining for fifty years. It was put in place in 1991 and by January 1998, all treaty nations had ratified the protocol and the moratorium was legally in place.
Australia claims 42% of the continent including 5000 kms of coastline but it's not legal. The Russians and now China and India have not sought permission from Canberra to build their bases in the Australian Antarctic Territory, because it doesn't belong to us.
In 2001 Russia sent a ship to Antarctica to collect data on gas and oil reserves and South Korea, new to the game, who also had ideas of exploiting Antarctic minerals but they were severely chastised by the treaty and backed off. Now China has their eye on it. Fairfax journalist Jo Chandler happened to be at Casey recently and witnessed the arrival of a Chinese delegation. She reported that the Chinese were led by Minister for Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi who declined to speak to her but the Director of China's polar programs Qu Zanzhou told her "Also we are here about the potential of the resources and how to use these resources".
I wonder if the Antarctic Treaty will take on the might of China in the same way they did with Russia and South Korea. Should be interesting to see what happens, if anything.