Monday, May 11, 2009

A One Billion Dollar Geological Map Of The Arctic

That's what it has cost approximately for Canada, Russia, the United States, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden to collaborate and share data and produce a geological map of the circum- polar arctic region. I imported a MrSid digital version of the map in my Manifold GIS. I downloaded the digital version from the Natural Resources Canada digital data download site. There are JPEG 2000 and Acrobat versions of the image also available.

More details from Spatial Sustain:

A collaborative geological map of Arctic geology across circumpolar countries was completed in November 2008 as part of the International Polar Year. The 1:5,000,000 scale bedrock geology map and related digital data sets relate to the objectives of the Commission for the Geological Map of the World.

The project objectives were to compile details to produce a hardcopy map of the circumpolar Arctic, while also synthesizing data to form a spatial database. The archive will provide the means to create additional digital products. This effort serves as a model for subsurface spatial data collection for other parts of the globe....

Its not just the arctic sea bed that is of interest to countries. See also this article by the Economist on sea-bed mineral riches and the economic and technological hurdles faced by countries trying to exploit these resources. India for example has been wanting to exploit manganese nodules from the Arabian deep sea for decades. There has not been any successful commercial exploitation yet but that might change in the future.

Countries have a sovereign right to exploit the sea bed up to 200 miles from their coasts. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows countries to extend their claim if they can show that their continental shelves extend beyond this range. For countries who ratified this convention before May 13 1999, the deadline to submit these claims is May 13 2009. There is a lot of real estate at stake here. Around 15 million sq km of it. Canada is seeking 1.7m sq km but get this ... eight Pacific island nations including Fiji are claiming 1.5 m sq km! With hundreds of islands they have a lot of coastline that can in principle be extended. I am not familiar with the geology of the Pacific islands but Fiji does claim that there is oil and gas to be exploited from carbonate reefal traps of Cenozoic age.

India has a couple more days to submit its claim. No new yet about that... but Pakistan already has. Of particular importance is the deep water Indus river fan and deltaic system. That is likely to have significant hydrocarbon potential.

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