Warming of the Arctic is allowing access to its mineral resource wealth, including precious gems and rare earth elements
[ Page 81 ]
Then there are the minerals. Now, longer summers are providing additional time to prospect mineral deposits, and retreating sea ice is opening deep-water ports for their export. The Arctic is already home to the world’s most productive zinc mine, ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Red Dog, in northern Alaska, and its most productive nickel mine, in Norilsk, in northern Russia. Thanks mostly to Russia, the Arctic produces 40 percent of the world’s palladium, 20 percent of its diamonds, 15 percent of its platinum, 11 percent of its cobalt, ten percent of its nickel, nine percent of its tungsten, and eight percent of its zinc. Alaska has more than 150 prospective deposits of rare-earth elements, and if the state were its own country, it would rank in the top ten in global reserves for many of these minerals. And all these assets are just the beginning. The Arctic has only begun to be surveyed. Once the digging starts, there is every reason to expect that, as often happens, even greater quantities of riches will be uncovered.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic region is the largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on earth with an estimated ninety billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In addition, the unpredictability of the Persian Gulf region makes the Arctic region even more attractive for exploitation.