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Executive Summary for September 9th

We review the latest Arctic news, including Norway’s backtrack on oil exploration in the Lofoten islands and a Russian river that’s running red.

Published on Sep. 9, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Lofoten Islands Off the Table for Oil Exploration

Norway’s government has backed away from its plans to open new Arctic areas for oil exploration, reported Reuters on September 8.

The Oil and Energy Ministry has overturned an earlier recommendation to open areas near the Lofoten islands, inside the Arctic Circle and the site of the world’s largest cold-water coral reef, to oil and gas exploration in a future licensing round. According to the Financial Times, Norway’s oil minister, Tord Lien, was caught off guard by the response to his plans.

The government-controlled Statoil and Oslo’s oil minister had previously requested that a ban covering the area be lifted following the upcoming 2017 election to boost Norway’s oil production and create jobs in the remote northern region. A coalition agreement had ruled out oil exploration in Lofoten, More and other Arctic areas.

Oil analysts are doubtful that the areas would have been profitable, saying they would not produce oil until 2030, by which time oil demand may have changed.

The news comes at a time when the only oilfield in Arctic Norway – the Goliat platform operated by Italian oil company Eni – is suffering from a series of setbacks, including a blackout and an accident. Production has stopped until the company can guarantee safe operations.

Russia Looks to Denmark for Agreement Over Arctic Claims

Russia wants to strike a deal with Denmark over the countries’ overlapping claims in the Arctic, reported the Independent Barents Observer on September 8.

Denmark’s submission to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf overlaps with those of Canada and Russia. A 550,000 sq km (212,000 sq mi) overlap exists between the Russian and Danish claims, including the North Pole. Although both countries have made their formal submissions to the U.N., it will be years before it rules on those claims.

Russia’s minister of natural resources, Sergey Donskoy, told Vladimir Putin that he would like to “speed up” the process by opening up bilateral discussions with Denmark this fall to come to a preliminary agreement, according to a transcript of a meeting.

Nickel Mine Blamed for Blood Red River

In the nickel-producing Arctic city of Norilsk, the Daldykan river has taken on a deep red hue, possibly the result of a pipeline break at a factory run by Norilsk Nickel, reported the Guardian on September 7.

Images of the red river hit social media on Tuesday, with some contributors suggesting that it had also changed color in June. Photos posted on Facebook by the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Taimyr show red sludge washed up on riverbanks and coating pipes.

Russian authorities have launched an investigation to determine the cause of the mishap, which may be the result of a chemical leak. The BBC reported that the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta indicated the contamination could be waste copper-nickel concentrate.

Norilsk Nickel, one of the world’s largest producers of nickel and palladium, denied claims that there had been a breakdown at the facility, Reuters reported.

The company released photos of the river it says were taken on Wednesday, which show a normal-colored river. “The river and its mainstream are in regular condition, which goes against the information about any color changes due to an alleged case of large-scale river pollution,” Norilsk Nickel said in a statement.

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