Ratification of UNCLOS is necessary to exploit Arctic oil and gas
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The Convention also gives the United States an opportunity to expand its sovereignty rights over resources on and under the ocean floor beyond 200 nautical miles to the end of its continental shelf, up to 350 nautical miles.140 This mechanism is especially valuable to the United States as it would maximize legal certainty regarding the United States’ rights to energy resources in large offshore areas, including the areas of the Arctic Ocean. However, the United States must ratify the Convention for its claims to be internationally recognized.141 Not surprisingly, the American oil companies favor ratification, as it will allow them to explore oceans beyond 200 miles off the coast, where evolving technologies now make oil and natural gas recoverable.142 If the United States ratifies the Convention it could expand its areas for mineral exploration and production by more than 291,383 square miles.143 The United States’ claim under article 76 would add an area in the Arctic (Chukchi Cap) roughly equal to the area of West Virginia.144 With a successful claim the United States would have the sole right to the exploitation of all the resources on and under the Arctic Ocean bottom. These potential energy resources could make significant contributions to United States energy independence. Because the Convention is the only means of assuring access to the mineral resources beneath the Arctic Ocean, American companies “wishing to engage in deep seabed mining operations will have no choice but to proceed under the flag of a country that has adhered to the treaty.”145
Russia, Denmark, Norway, and Canada are staking their claims to Arctic resources but the United States, which has conducted research on how far the continental shelf extends from Alaska toward the North Pole, cannot submit any of its evidence because it is not a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).