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All eyes set on the North Pole

January 27, 2014 - UNITED NATIONS

The newest issue for the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, meeting for its 34th Session, 27 Jan-14 Mar 2014 in New York, is Canada's claim to the North Pole. Canada's Arctic neighbors have eyes on the same prize.

A secretive UN body, the commission has the power to grant new seabed territory to nations. Coastal states that are deemed to have sovereignty are awarded exclusive economic control over the waters and seabed stretching 200 nautical miles from the shores. Countries can extend their ocean bottom territory to 350 nautical miles, and sometimes beyond, if they can prove that the area is a natural prolongation of their dry landmass.

Interest in the polar region has flared up as rapid melting is opening up shipping routes and the potential for access to previously inaccessible mineral resources. The decisions on the Arctic are likely to be glacial because the commission is known to take its time. The harsh Arctic conditions and protracted legal challenges could also buy time for the pristine region. The extreme conditions complicate the task of proving contiguous territory while hampering efforts by any contender to establish more than a symbolic presence in a disputed area.

Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UN)

Russia presence: Canada plots north pole claim (Guardian 10 Dec 2013)

Canada to Claim North Pole (Discovery News 10 Nov 2013)

Date written/update: 2014-01-20