SCIENTIFIC data shows Greenland’s continental shelf is connected to a ridge beneath the Arctic Ocean, giving Danes a claim to the North Pole and any potential energy resources beneath it, Denmark’s foreign minister said yesterday.
Foreign minister Martin Lidegaard said Denmark will deliver a claim to a United Nations panel in New York that will eventually decide control of the area, which Russia and Canada also covet.
Of the five Arctic countries – the United States, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark – only Canada and Russia had indicated an interest in it before Denmark’s claim.
Mr Lidegaard said yesterday that the Arctic nations so far “have stuck to the rules of the game” and he hoped they would continue to do so.
In 2008, the five pledged that control of the region would be decided in an orderly settlement within the framework of the UN, and any overlapping claims dealt with bilaterally.
Interest in the Arctic is intensifying as global warming shrinks the polar ice, opening up resource development and new shipping lanes.
The area is believed to hold an estimated 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 per cent of its untapped gas.
Mr Lidegaard said he expects no quick decisions, with other countries also sending in claims.
“This is a historical milestone for Denmark and many others as the area has an impact on the lives of lot of people,” Mr Lidegaard said. “After the UN panel has taken a decision based on scientific data comes a political process. I expect this to take some time. An answer will come in a few decades.”
Between 2007 and 2012, Danish scientists with colleagues from Canada, Sweden and Russia surveyed a 1,240-mile underwater mountain range that runs north of Siberia, concluding that Greenland – a huge sparsely populated island that is a semi-autonomous Danish territory – is geologically attached to the ridge. That prompted Danes to claim the right to exploit an area of 345,600 square miles.
“The Lomonosov Ridge is the natural extension of the Greenland shelf,” said Christian Marcussen, a senior geophysicist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “Coincidentally, the North Pole, which is a tiny, tiny abstract spot, lies in the area.”
In 2007, Russian explorers planted their country’s flag on the seabed 14,000ft below the North Pole to further Moscow’s claims to the Arctic.
The rust-proof titanium metal flag was planted by ocean explorers travelling in two mini-submarines, in what was then believed to be the first expedition of its kind.
Canada, which also claims territory in the Arctic, criticised that mission. “This isn’t the 15th century,” Canadian foreign minister Peter MacKay said in 2007. “You can’t go around the world and just plant flags and say, ‘We’re claiming this territory’.”