The Arctic This Week: 16 March 2013 - 22 March 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:12

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Thanks for joining us this week! It’s our great pleasure to welcome a third co-author, Maura Farrell, to The Arctic This Week. Maura will be joining Tom and Kevin, bringing her own knowledge of, and interest in, Arctic politics and policy to bear on the weekly briefing.

As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own. To comment or to request a back issue, feel free to contact Tom, Kevin or Maura directly. If you find TATW valuable, please spread the word!

Reads of the Week

If you’re pressed for time this week, start with the articles below.

Canada’s takeover of the Arctic Council comes with a shift in focus towards what we’ve agreed to call Arctic development. Individual and national conceptions of this development process vary, it is safe to say. Greg Poelzer of the University of Saskatchewan suggests that his own province could become another Norway, thanks to numerous surprising similarities between the two. Norway itself is looking optimistically and competitively at the development of its national fishing industry, preparing itself to be “the world’s leading seafood nation” in only a few years (Gov’t of Norway, in Norwegian).

Riding shotgun with talk of Northern development is the specter of Arctic conflict. Taking it on this week was James Holmes, who argues sensibly and well in Foreign Policy that the US Coast Guard should take the lead in America’s Arctic security efforts, and that more pressing military theaters will continue to demand the attention of the other branches of US Armed Forces elsewhere. Heather Exner-Pirot delivers another excellent article which tidily complements Mr. Holmes’s – she delivers several punishing hits (via Alaska Dispatch) to the idea of Arctic conflict which so effectively sells papers and generates clicks for the media outlets that propagate it. For a security theme you haven’t read much about, enjoy a well-written and fascinating comment on Sweden’s defense policy from Charly Salonius-Pasternak. He points out that the context in which Sweden’s defense policy – to wit, its relationship with NATO and its Nordic neighbors – has been built for the past few decades is changing rapidly, and needs to be considered in Finland as well.

Move next to the energy sector, where we commend to your attention Alex DeMarban’s great analysis and writing on the issue of proposed changes to Alaska’s oil taxes.  Two articles well worth reading are one on Governor Sean Parnell’s evolving positions on oil taxes (AD) and another with analysis of whether or not certain types of tax credits actually encourage investment in the oil sector – or not (AD). Staying briefly with extractive industries, another great read this week by Julie Gordon and Allison Martell explores the potential impacts of the Idle no More movement on Canada’s mining sector (Reuters).

Lastly, science rears its head not in the form of revolutionary new research, but in a carefully-tended, informative and lovingly-written blog from the ACCACIA team, which is doing research on low-level clouds in the Arctic. Learn about the research here, and dig into the engrossing blog here. Thanks to the team for making the worthwhile effort to keep those far away informed.

The Political Scene


Will the Arctic be bristling with advanced weaponry next week? Read on: Heather Exner-Pirot’s piece “The relentless myth of an Arctic Cold War” was republished by Alaska Dispatch, and the same myth was debated at the Economist’s Arctic Summit in Oslo (ADN). Related commentary appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, EU Observer, and Norwegian news. In general, the discussion concerning the geopolitics of the Arctic is becoming helpfully more nuanced, which is great. Yet dialogue still seemed to split into two camps: those who believe fear of Arctic conflict is overblown; and those who believe that tensions in the Arctic have only been hardened by recent developments such as climate change (more on this to come from Harvard’s Brown Bag Lunch Series “Arctic Power Projections”).

Adding depth to the debate, Ritt Goldstein for CounterPunch and Arthur I. Cyr’s guest commentary for both incorporated discussions of the rights of native peoples into their discussions of an Arctic “race”. Goldstein remarked, “In this day and age, is it really possible that governments might try to run roughshod over Indigenous Peoples’ rights? Is it conceivable that the use of military force could be contemplated in securing national visions of ‘Arctic Development’?” Cyr makes the point that indigenous peoples in the North “share remarkably similar problems resulting from poverty,” advocating greater UN engagement to encourage polar development.

Similarly, an article by Greg Poelzer in Policy Options (entitled “Saskatchewan Vikings”) put forth the case for Saskatchewan development modeled after Norway’s successes based on the “uncanny similarities between their resource blessings and social cohesion”. It seems this kind of thinking is catching on: the Canadian Polar Commission has expressed its interest in taking a more public role in Northern affairs by “linking traditional indigenous knowledge with scientific research” (EOTA). This is not a brand-new idea, but its advance seems like a positive development.

Tempering the race debate, as the Smithsonian contribution reminded us, is the fact that some energy companies, such as Shell, have recently cancelled drilling projects in Arctic waters because of the “inherent difficulties” of the northern landscape (WWF). Are we looking too far into the future? We know that China (the Guardian), Japan (BO) and South Korea (Global Post) are “Arctic stakeholders” and want in to the Arctic Council. But as Kit Dawnay put it in Current Intelligence, “long range forecasting built on today’s world order is a questionable enterprise.”

Coordination and cooperation on Arctic issues seem to be ever on the rise at high levels. The University of Nordland’s Arctic Dialogue 2013 study tour, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat’s Polar Forum 2013, a seminar in Reykjavik on “The Trans-Arctic Agenda” and the Arctic Council’s SAO meeting in Stockholm – all held this past week – are reminders of this. Another factor to consider is that interest in Arctic developmental outcomes may end up being shared, rather than competitive. The Norwegian Government, for example, has over NOK 25 billion invested in Russian companies such as Gazprom and Lukoil (BO).


First, let us recommend that you download and browse at your leisure the JSIS Arctic Task Force 2013 report, a treasure trove of thinking on Arctic policy and Canada from the next generation of scholars.

The Canadian government released its federal budget on Thursday. Attempting to tighten its belt to reduce the government deficit by 2015, the budget saw “no tax cuts” and “little new spending”, according to the CBC. If you’re interested, check out Laura Payton’s “5 items to watch for in the federal budget” (CBC). While the Nunavut Premier and Finance Minister welcomed the new budget, which granted $100 million for new housing construction (NN) in the territory, ITK President Terry Audla found the remedies “gratifying”, but said they failed to make any “real headway” in addressing homelessness across Inuit Nunangat (NN). Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski delivered news of a $72 million surplus budget on Thursday, maintaining that the economic successes of the region since devolution have allowed the territory to maintain its high level of spending, which this year will be focused on investing in roads and other infrastructure (CBC).

A group of youths from the Idle No More movement (Wikipedia) are close to completing a 1,600-km walk from Whapmagoostui, Quebec to Ottawa. This “Journey of Nishiyuu”, which has grown from six to nearly 200, has accumulated over 32,000 members on its Facebook page (EOTA).

United States

On Thursday, the Senate Energy Committee endorsed (19-3) President Obama’s nominee for Interior secretary, Sally Jewell; the Senate is expected to vote on Jewell’s nomination next month. Prior to the endorsement from the Energy Committe, current Interior secretary Ken Salazar agreed to review a decision blocking the construction of a road through a wildlife reserve that would allow residents of King Cove, Alaska access to an all-weather airport (ADN). In other Congressional news, the House Ethics Committee is investigating Alaskan Representative Don Young for allegedly misusing campaign funds, failing to disclose gifts, and lying to federal officials (FNM).

Alaskan Senate President Charlie Huggins and Alaskan Speaker of the House Mike Chenault appointed Lesil McGuire and Bob Herron to co-chair the Alaska Policy Commission (AD). You can read their “goals and ambitions” press release here.


David Shiffman for Southern Fried Science reflects on the inclusion of online outreach at the 16th Conference of the Parties of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). / Canadian Liberal leader Bob Rae visited Whitehorse (Yukon News). / Deline, a predominantly Dene community in Canada's Northwest Territories, is close to ratifying a Self Government Agreement after sixteen years of negotiations (EOTA). / The third annual symposium on Northern Political economy, to be held in Rovaniemi, Finland on August 14-15, has called for papers (proposals due by May 31st) by doctoral students and senior scholars. / The University of Lapland established the position “Professor of Arctic Politics” to meet the growing interest in Arctic issues, appointing Lassi Heininen to fill the post (


A call for papers was released for the 2013 Arctic Energy Summit. You can find more details on the Summit’s webpage.


The campaign to cut Alaska’s taxes for oil companies by an estimated $5-6 billion over the next six years continued to move ahead this week. The bill seeks to increase oil production by reducing the state’s share of oil profits from about 74% to between 60% and 62% through lowering base tax rates, cutting ‘progressivity’ that allowed for taxes rates to rise as the price of oil rises, and increasing incentives for new development (Alaska Journal of Commerce). The Senate passed the tax cuts in an 11-9 vote Wednesday to approve the bill with only minor modifications (AD). Debate has swirled around the bill: opponents claim that there is no evidence that the new tax regime will lead to increased investment or production. Industry leaders who testified in support of the bill declined to make assurances that the new tax rates would lead to new production. Meanwhile, no other public testimony was allowed on the bill, causing some politicians to claim that Alaskans were being left out of the process (AD). And, in a case of bad timing for the bill’s backers, the State Labor Department announced that oil and gas jobs had reached record highs in the Alaska this year, leading some to question whether new tax breaks were needed to encourage growth (AD). Alex DeMarban has done some great analysis and writing on the oil tax issue for Alaska Dispatch, including an article on Governor Sean Parnell’s evolving positions on oil taxes (AD) and analysis of whether or not certain types of tax credits actually encourage investment or not (AD).

It was the Kulluk’s turn this week for a piggy-back ride. The Chinese heavy-lift vessel Xiang Rui Kou managed to float Shell’s troubled drill rig on Tuesday in preparation for moving it across to Asia for extensive repairs after its grounding late last year in Alaska (AD). And as the crippled Kulluk was towed off to Asia, Shell announced that executive VP for American Exploration David Lawrence would be leaving the company. Although Shell said the decision was reached by mutual consent, it is reasonable to speculate that Shell’s troubled exploration season in the Arctic may have precipitated Lawrence’s departure (Fox). In further fall out from Shell’s Arctic drilling season, an article in New Scientist looks at the potential for increased federal oversight of Arctic drilling. Kiley Kroh and Howard Marano point out the many challenges of Arctic drilling in a briefing for the Center for American Progress, but focus on what they see as the most important danger of Arctic drilling: accelerating global warming and climate change.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the impact of oil and gas exploration in Arctic on wildlife, resources and Alaska Native communities in order to solicit comments. A full copy of the draft can be found here. The original EIS only examined the impact of four cumulative drilling programs per year, while the new draft studies the impact of up to eight drilling programs.

On the national level, Daniel Graeber writes for Oil Price that the debate over the two highest-profile energy development issues in the US, Arctic drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline, are driven by politics and not by concerns for energy security. Indeed, even President Obama is finding it hard to escape the politics of Arctic drilling; Greenpeace staged a protest during the president’s visit to Israel to urge him to halt Arctic oil exploration (Reuters). Back home, the administration announced it wouldn’t open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration in exchange for Republican support for the President’s proposed Energy Security Trust Fund, a project to support research into energy efficient technologies (WP).

Unfazed by the political fallout from Shell’s 2013 drilling season, ConocoPhilips is going ahead with plans to drill at least one exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea in 2014. ConocoPhilips will use purpose-built jack-up drill platforms that have been specially designed to operate in Arctic conditions (ADN).

Meanwhile onshore, Linc Energy Ltd. announced that it had drilled its first exploratory well on the Umiat prospect in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, though weather conditions this winter prevented them from completing the planned four-to-six well program (PN).


The complexities of the relationship between Europe and Russia over the topic of natural gas and the EU’s Third Energy Package were the topic of a lecture by Prof. Jonathan Stern, Chairman of the Natural Gas Research Program at the Oxford Institute of Energy. A summary of the lecture can be found at Natural Gas Europe. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev invited the EU to reconsider some elements of their Third Energy Package, complaining that Russia had not been consulted during the drafting of the document, even though it has significant interests as a major supplier of gas to EU countries (ITAR-TASS). While its long been known that Russia plays hardball when it comes to using its oil and gas exports as tools of its foreign policy, this short article by Agnia Grigas on Open Democracy provides a good summary of the challenges that these types of tactics present to European consumers.

All is not well in the halls of Gazprom. Complacent after years of domestic near-monopolies and high gas prices abroad, the company has been rattled by the shale gas revolution and related collapse of gas prices. The Economist provides analysis of this company at the nexus of political and economic power in Russia and the prospects it has for turning around its recent dismal performance. It wasn’t too long ago that Russian oil and gas executives scoffed at shale oil as a myth and hoax on par with “global warming or biofuels” (Institute for a Modern Russia).  With fracking leading to a 14% increase in oil production last year, Rosneft and Lukoil are beginning to use the technology to revitalize sagging production at Soviet legacy fields, while Gazprom and Shell have begun work to develop the Bazhenov shale, a potentially massive shale reservoir in Siberia (Bloomberg).  Another indication of Russia’s about-face on tight oil: new tax incentives will take effect in 2014 to encourage oil producers to develop tight rock reservoirs (Reuters).

In a symbolic move largely seen as tied to energy policy, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first foreign trip brought him to Moscow this week, where the two countries signed a number of deals to deepen energy ties, including an agreement on a new gas pipeline (FT). As part of the wheeling and dealing between the two countries this week, Rosneft agreed to double oil exports to China and, in exchange, secured a USD 2 billion dollar loan from China for 25 years. This loan helped Rosneft finalize its acquisition of TNK-BP this week, paying out nearly USD 45 billion to BP and Alfa-Access-Renova for their interests in the company (RBTH). This deal will make Rosneft the largest publicly-traded oil company in the world. As part of the deal, BP received a 19.75% stake in Rosneft which will set the stage for collaboration on Russia’s offshore Arctic exploration and development (Telegraph). The sale also provides ready cash that BP can use to make compensation payments for the Deepwater Horizon spill (Forbes). Rosneft is also looking to Chinese companies to embark on joint development projects on Russia’s Arctic shelf (BO). Rosneft’s success highlights the key role that its CEO, Igor Sechin, plays in Russia’s political and energy policy world. For a profile of the man and his extensive powers, see this article at the Institute for Modern Russia.

In what was a busy week for Russia in the energy-diplomacy realm, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also oversaw the signing of an energy-cooperation agreement between Russia and the European Union (RIAN). Gazprom also reached a tentative agreement with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation to supply up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year to China (RIAN).

Novatek and Total got the green light from Russian regulators for construction of a LNG plant on the Yamal peninsula (RIAN). Novatek is also looking to sell a portion of its stake in the Yamal LNG project and is in talks with South Korean, Japanese and Chinese companies (RBTH). Novatek is already in talks with potential gas buyers in Asia (RigZone); the company will be allowed to export after Moscow broke up Gazprom’s gas export monopoly this week, allowing Rosneft and Novatek to export to Asia, but not to the lucrative European market (BO).

An article by Olga Senina for the Russia & India Report does a nice job of summarizing the motives and challenges behind Russia’s push to develop Arctic oil and gas, particularly the absence of development in Russia’s far North.


Heating bills have doubled in the Northwest Territories town of Inuvik after the natural gas well that used to provide fuel for heat became unusable and the town had to switch to much more expensive synthetic gas (CBC).

An interesting article in Yukon News looks at the challenges of planning renewable energy in the Canadian North. While there are many backers of wind energy and plenty of windy locations for turbines, capital investment is scarce. Additionally, spiking demand from potential mining projects could increase demand for wind power, but this demand will be only temporary. When the mining operations cease, the Yukon will not be able to export the energy and will be stuck with the spare capacity (Yukon News). In other renewable news, the Yukon Electrical Company’s attempts to re-license the Fish Lake hydro plant are drawing protests from local residents over concerns about flooding and salmon populations (CBC).

More leaks were discovered in Enbridge’s Norman Wells Pipeline in the Northwest Territories (CBC).


Norway announced that it would delay opening the Arctic Jan Mayen fields to exploration for a year until it had better estimates of the area’s hydrocarbon potential (Bloomberg).

Pipeline company DNV released details of a new pipeline technology that it designed to transport oil and gas from high-pressure and high-temperature reservoirs. The concept, called SliPIPE, includes an outer pipe at pipeline junctions that allows inner sections of pipe to expand and contract more easily without failing (LNG World News).

A proposal by Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe to reduce gas pipeline transport rates to encourage development of smaller and less profitable gas fields has irked pipeline company Gassled, whose owners say the new policy will erode their profits (AB).

Norwegian academic Ove Tobias Gudmestad warns that the Yme scandal involving a massive drilling platform that will be scrapped before it is even put to use is just the first of many industrial scandals in Norway’s future (AB).


Environmentalists are calling on government authorities to cancel plans for a new geothermal electrical plant in Northeast Iceland until it can be proven that the new plant will not impact the area’s residents, flora and fauna (Iceland Review).

Science, Environment & Wildlife

If you’re always on the lookout for new – or newly-published – research, check out this week’s new additions to the ASTIS database, from the Arctic Institute of North America. It’s a wonderful resource.

Environmental news and research

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry predicted this week that the Russian Arctic would see a temperature increase of up to 7 degrees this century (RIAN), significantly greater than overall global temperature increase. Any such temperature increase will be accompanied by a continued decrease in summer Arctic sea ice, the impacts of which are sketched out quickly by Carbon Brief. The WWF recommends that the Arctic Council under Canadian leadership balance a desire for development with a greater focus on “managing the health of Arctic ecosystems and their services” (Alexander Shestakov / WWF), and the United States Arctic Research Council released its own set of research goals for the immediate future, including acquiring better knowledge of environmental change, human health, natural resources, civil infrastructure and indigenous cultures. At a much more local level, the town of Pangnirtung in Nunavut has been enjoying record-breaking warm temperatures for this time of year (NN), and Russia’s Northern (Arctic) Federal University is helping to put together student clean-ups of a portion of the Franz Josef Land archipelago (NARFU, in Russian).

NASA’s Operation IceBridge made a splash this week as it began its 2013 survey of land and sea ice. A collaborative effort among many research centers, the program this year includes data-gathering on the Greenland ice sheet, the Jakobshavn glacier and Arctic sea ice (NASA). The competitive process through which IceBridge flight plans are developed is the subject of a quick video from NASA, and you can follow the progress of the mission as a whole via the blog of Sinead Farrell, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. You might also wish to explore the Inuit Sea Ice Atlas, developed as part of the International Polar Year.

The IceBridge planes won’t be the only ones aloft in the Arctic. The ACCACIA program is exploring low-level clouds in the Arctic and the aerosols that help to determine their properties; they’re cataloging their work on a delightful and detailed group blog, and the plane they’re using is given its own moment in the sun via The Engineer. Also looking skyward are researchers at Canada’s PEARL research station, who are watching to see if an ozone hole forms over the Arctic this summer, as it did in 2011 (Create Arctic Science). NASA also has another initiative much further south in Greenland, as a team prepares to study an aquifer trapped beneath the Greenland ice sheet (NASA).

While Canada’s information commissioner takes up the issue of “muzzling” of Canadian scientists (Toronto Star), the University of Manitoba celebrated the opening of a new, unique research center focused on climate change in the Arctic (WFP).

Arctic life

A new article in the Financial Post hasn’t gotten that much pickup, although it highlights well an extremely difficult issue in polar bear science and science generally. On what should policy be based when available data are incomplete and inconclusive? Author Matt Ridley looks back at the evidence submitted at the CITES conference by the Polar Bear Specialist Group and finds it wanting; he believes the available information supports a conclusion that polar bears are doing just fine. To get an idea of the gulf between one side and the other of the “polar bear debate”, go next to an article in RIA Novosti which argues that poaching in the easternmost of Russia’s four polar bear populations takes up to 200 bears each year, and poses a serious threat to “the shrinking polar bear population” on a global scale. Follow with an item from Science World Report on polar bears’ earlier-than-usual arrival on land; the article also clearly indicates a belief that the bears are seriously threatened.

Both sides of the above argument are convinced that their information and the conclusions they’ve drawn are correct; I am in no position to judge. Whatever the case may be, the WWF is working to add to the body of knowledge on polar bears with a denning survey in Nunavut’s Foxe Basin (NN); the results should help industry and government officials to identify no-go areas of critical habitat for the animals.

With the emotional debate about the status of polar bears cooling slowly after the CITES meeting, it’s time to remember as well that the Arctic isn’t just home to polar bears. The Biotope office in Vardø, Norway is doing its part with Gullfest, a birding expedition in northern Norway (wonderful photos – enjoy!), and recently-released research on plankton in the Barents and in Svalbard’s fjords suggests that the tiny organisms may “flip” from collecting carbon to producing CO2 if and when ocean temperatures in the Arctic rise above 5 degrees (Biogeosciences).

Other science news

On the event front, the first announcement of the 2014 International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences came out this week; calls for sessions and papers will come later. / The American Polar Society will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in April. / The Northern Research Forum has an open call for papers for an August conference “Climate Change in Northern Territories” in Akureyri, Iceland. / A science fair in Nunavik brought out more than 100 aboriginal students from the territory to showcase their own research (NN).

Military / Search-&-Rescue

There’s been much talk lately about the role of the US Coast Guard in the Arctic. As a memorable subheading in Foreign Policy put it: “As the Arctic becomes an arena for conflict, the United States’ forgotten naval force will need to cowboy up.” If you’re unsure what exactly it means to “cowboy up”, read on: faced with “a defense that doesn’t work against missiles that don’t exist” in Alaska (Foreign Policy), James Holmes in separate articles for The Diplomat and Foreign Policy argued that the best option for defending the American Arctic and securing natural resources (RT) may be coordinated action on the part of the US Coast Guard and Air Force, calling them American strategy’s “Odd Couple” (The Diplomat). The rationale behind reform of the “woefully underfunded and thoroughly unsexy” Coast Guard is that, once shipping begins in earnest in the Arctic, there needs to be a formidable policing force in place to protect US interests (Foreign Policy).

Preparedness for Arctic and Arctic-like conditions was also a common theme. The US Army’s Northern Warfare Training Center in Fort Wainwright, Alaska added an "Arctic Challenge" (, and British Royal Marines joined by Dutch and Norwegian Forces carried out contingency training in Norway, north of the Arctic Circle (BBC). The Russian Northern Fleet is testing equipment for its new Arctic brigade (BO), and the Russian Navy is adding its second Borey-Class nuclear-powered submarine this year (RIAN). Norway is enhancing its Arctic preparedness by replacing the MS Nordsyssel with a state-of-the-art new vessel and adding an additional large helicopter to the equipment roster of the Svalbard Governor’s office (BO).

One side effect of Canada’s lean federal budget (CBC) is a reduction in Canadian Army operations focused on Arctic sovereignty. Former Arctic commander Pierre Leblanc maintained that effective monitoring and enforcing of Canadian sovereignty is absolutely essential in the Arctic (Hill Times). The Canadian Department of Defense is providing employment opportunities for Inuit in the Canadian North by contracting out cleanup of contaminated materials from a former Cold War radar station to the Inuit-owned Qikiqtaaluk Corporation (Arctic Junkie).

The Finnish Institute of International Affairs released an incisive comment on changes in Swedish defense policy and the Swedish public’s attitude towards NATO membership. Here is the PDF version of the comment if you want to check it out.



The Conference on Best Environmental Practices in the Mining Sector in the Barents Region will be held 23-24 April in Rovaniemi, Finland. Details can be found on the conference’s website.

In Sweden, the Northland mining company has announced that it secured sufficient funding to keep its mine near Pajala in operation through the next year. Northland originally announced that it would have to shutter the mine in mid-April due to the company’s inability to raise additional capital, a move that would have had serious impact on local economies (EOTA).


Partii Inuit has announced that it will drop its zero-tolerance position on uranium mining as part of a deal to enter a coalition with the Siumut Party after recent elections in Greenland (Sermitsiaq). Greenland’s Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist stated in an interview last week that he could end a preliminary agreement ensuring EU access to Greenland’s mining sector if the EU continues to fail to follow through on the agreement (IceNews).


Gold miners in Alaska got help from the state this week when Juneau announced that it had filed a lawsuit against the federal government; the lawsuit seeks to secure rights-of-way around several trails on US Bureau of Land Management property that local miners have long used to access their claims (FNM).


Julie Gordon and Allison Martell present a great article for Reuters on the potential impacts of the Idle no More movement on Canada’s mining sector (Reuters).

Areva Resources reported that it is continuing test-drilling for uranium at the Kiggavik project site in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut (CBC).

The Minto copper and gold mine near Pelly Crossing, Yukon, continues to exceed initial production estimates. The mine was originally expected to produce only 1,600 tonnes of ore a day for a few years, but new projections estimate the mine will produce over 3,800 tonnes of ore a day through 2022 (Yukon News).

Federal officials are trying to figure out how to clean up an abandoned gold mine just outside of Yellowknife that is in danger releasing large amounts of arsenic and asbestos. The Giant Mine has been inactive since 2004 (iPolitics).

A report by Natural Resources Canada states that mining industry investment in Canada’s north will decrease by a third in 2013 (NO).

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News


Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Lisbeth Berg-Hansen gave a really interesting speech this week on plans to make Norway “the world’s leading seafood nation”. Ms. Berg-Hansen says that it’s not just a vision, but a realistic and appropriate goal for Norway. Even Google-translated, the speech is fascinating and makes for a Read of the Week. Norway will be competing with Alaskan fisheries in this sense; numbers just in from 2011 show that the state’s fisheries brought in USD 4.7 billion that year (AD). Murmansk’s fisheries meanwhile are having difficulty finding the employees they need, thanks to the industry’s unimpressive salaries and a host of other factors (BN).

Efforts to make fisheries yield more “bang for the buck” are also underway around the Arctic, with a Yukon char farm experimenting with all-female fish populations (CBC) and Norway investing millions of dollars in a center devoted to identifying the best way to make use of fish entrails (SINTEF). Crabbers in the Bering Sea are also thanking Fortune for a season less beset by ice issues than last year (AD).


Russia’s new administrative offices for the Northern Sea Route officially opened this week in Moscow as part of the country’s Agency of Sea and River Transport (BO). This is just one piece of Russia’s growing activity on the Northern Sea Route; a contract for the dredging of the port at Sabetta, which will support the Yamal LNG project, was signed by the Jan De Nul Group this week. Nuclear icebreaker Taimyr is also on its way to Sabetta from Murmansk, and for the same reason (BN). And new icebreaking-supply vessel the Vitus Bering has recently begun work for the Sakhalin-I project in Russia’s far East (World Maritime News).

Across the Pacific from Sakhalin, the U of Alaska Fairbanks has undertaken, at Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s behest, an 18-month, USD 200,000 study of Alaska’s Arctic shipping needs (AD).  National Geographic also came out with a thoughtful, did-you-know sort of article about the development of a Polar Code by the International Maritime Organization, and the prospect of an Arctic Ocean open to shipping traffic prompted the director of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies to say that Iceland and China might soon become “neighbors” (Iceland Review). If you’ve got a little more time on your hands, you might check out a longish video on Canada’s own opportunities and challenges in a melting Arctic (Business News Network).

Other business news

The Nunavut Economic Developers’ Association has an incredibly useful site offering basic information about Nunavut’s communities in an easy-to-use interface. / SIVA was but one presenter of many at the recent Arctic Business Forum in Rovaniemi (BN). / An international group of design students has been spending time gathering inspiration in Finnish Lapland (YLE, in Finnish). / The Russian-Finnish border town of Alakurtti is considering different options to pump life back into the community (BN). / Scandal continues to plague former top executives from Iceland’s Kaupthing bank (IceNews). / According to the World Economic Forum, Iceland and New Zealand are tied as the world’s most appealing tourism destinations (IceNews). / Although not all Finns support the country’s fur industry, a recent sale of pelts may have dumped EUR 180 million into government coffers (YLE). / Luleå, Sweden showed its enthusiasm both for the town’s recent growth and for its new “resident” Facebook with a human “Like” (Horseed Media). Just look at all those waving Swedes.

Education, Health, Culture & Society

After observing a link between changes in weather patterns and stomach illness in Labrador, the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change Project last fall surveyed over 500 homes in Iqaluit, and is working with the Government of Nunavut to conduct the second part of the survey this spring (CBC). Along similar lines, the University of Greenland is hosting a PhD summer school on health, society and the environment as they relate to large-scale industrial projects (UArctic). The Government of Nunavut is also working to enhance sexual health education (NN) and investigating the effectiveness of the Nutrition North program (CBC) as part of its efforts to combat other chronic health challenges. A persistent concern in the North has been mental illness and suicide. To read more about the Northwest Territories’ struggle to provide helpful services to those who suffer from mental illness, check out this recent piece from CBC News.

Some support for mental health issues, as well as homelessness and violence, was provided for Nunavut in Canada’s recent budget (NN). Since about half of Nunavut residents live in publically funded housing (CBC), and considering increasing costs of living in the Canadian North (in Inuvik, CBC reports heating bills almost doubled this year), the struggle to maintain social housing is a pressing concern. Given that the Quebec Government agreed to fund a program to build new housing units in Nunavik that the federal government did not agree to match (NN), it may be that Nunavut has lucked out in comparison, even if the funding provided for Nunavut does not fully address the poverty problem (NN).

Addressing the problem of violence and criminal activity, Nunavut released a draft family violence strategy (NN), which has been heavily criticized by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (NN). High levels of violence in Nunavut have put increased strain on court resources, and the Iqaluit city council voted to allow the Nunavut Department of Justice to build an interim jail to accommodate more inmates (NN). In the Northwest Territories, the correctional system is also coming under fire for the way female prisoners are housed in RCMP cells while awaiting court dates (CBC).

The Nunavut Film Development Corporation is currently hosting a film workshop in Cambridge Bay to encourage the region’s filmmaking industry. In Manitoba, an exhibition of “defining moments in Inuit art” seeks to break traditional assumptions about Inuit art and raise awareness about northern life and culture (EOTA). On Alaska’s North Slope, regional tales are being incorporated in to the third grade curriculum (The Arctic Sounder), and in Finland an international conference is being planned for September to focus on recognizing indigenous sites in Arctic regions.


The Nunavut Government has suggested a pilot project to move towards liberalizing access to beer and wine (CBC). / The Canadian Municipal Training Organization has called for better protocol to monitor the use of obscene language in some local community radio stations in the North (CBC).


The development of northern transport infrastructure is an object of desire in Canada (CBC), and a matter of reality in Russia (VOR, in Russian). Looking to the skies, Alaskans are awaiting the arrival of the world’s largest blimp – a Skyship 600, 200 feet long – which will be doing surveying work for oil companies and trying to build support for an airship industry in the state (EOTA). Elsewhere, Nunavik is now host to a new air-charter company, Uppik Aviation, which “plans to take advantage of mining developments” in the region (NN). In the Nordics, SAS is trying to battle the Norwegian government’s ban on frequent-flier programs (IceNews).

Alaska also bid farewell this week to Virginia Wood, an esteemed figure in Alaskan aviation and conservation (AD).

Back on earth, a brief feature from the CBC on Canada’s Dempster Highway provides an entertaining 100 seconds. The announcement that government support for a highway extending the Dempster all the way to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic coast was greeted with approval by the affected communities, but the division of costs between the federal and territorial governments is – no surprise here – an issue (CBC).

The changing Arctic climate has, of course, impacts for infrastructure as well. Sinking permafrost is a concern for Iqaluit’s airport, which has had to make changes to adjust (CBC), and Iqaluit’s recently-built RCMP office is sinking as well – but could it be sabotage (G&M)? Meanwhile social-housing units in Nunavik aren’t living up to some basic standards of usability (NN).



Note to self: try not to get lost in Siberia in the depths of winter. Not only do you have to fight off wolves and frostbite, but when your rescue finally arrives they come flying a fairly ragged-looking helicopter (Daily Mail).

In spite of temperatures reaching -30c the day before the race, 2,800 people took part in the Barents Ski Race last week, a unique ski race that runs across Norway, Finland and Russia around the Russian town of Rayakoski (BO).


Many across this northern island are scratching their heads about a Chinese billionaire’s desire to build a golf course and resort in northern Iceland. Andrew Higgins writes about this bizarre story and how it has become part a central part of a larger discussion on China’s increasing economic and political interest in Iceland and the Arctic (NYT).


How do you train for the North Pole Marathon in Lebanon? Well, if you’re Ali Wehbi, you set up a treadmill in the freezer of a local supermarket (Daily Star).


After the death of a dog during last week’s running of the Iditarod, race organizers announced that they would provide better shelters for dogs, particularly at the Unalakleet dog yard, for next year’s race (EOTA).

For a profile of true grit on the Iditarod trial, read this profile of Cindy Abbott, who rode on in spite of a broken pelvis before finally dropping out of the race before reaching Katlag (AD).


A freak blizzard hit the Ivakkak dog team race in Northern Quebec this week and four dog teams had to be rescued on Tuesday (CBC).

The Northwest Territories community of Behchoko is seeking a $9 million loan to finish its sports complex (CBC).

17 year old Yukon skier Josh Harlow helped bring home a bronze medal for the Yukon Freestyle Ski Association when he landed a “corked 900 with a blunt tail grab” at the Canadian Junior Freestyle Ski Championships in British Colombia this week. This is the first medal the YFSA has won at the national level (Yukon News). Yukon’s boarders put in a strong showing as well, in spite of several injuries (Yukon News).

Images & Video

If you’re a budding or established Arctic photographer yourself, you’ll want to know about the photograph competition “My Barents Region”.

Start your visual travels this week with great collections of Arctic photos from Iceland’s Ragnar Axelsson (, in black-&-white) and from Alexander Semenov, whose photographs of Arctic sea life in the White Sea are a revelation (Alaska Dispatch, with interview). Exploring ordinary life instead are two further collections from Barents Observer on this past week’s Barents Ski Race and winter on Arkhangelsk’s Dvina River. Finish by getting to know two wonderful photographers better. Start with an interview and video with photographer Vladimir Donkov on his own obsession with Arctic photography (Hasselblad Bulletin), and move to a podcast interview with Florian Schulz (Earth Justice).

Let us now praise Instagram and Flickr for delivering us a regular stream of great Arctic photos. Instagram user @jonny09jonny is, I think hanging out with the Biotope folks in Vardø and delivering some great photos of the low Arctic sun, a frozen Cadillac, seagulls, Vardø graffiti, and coastal Norway from the air, from the water and from the ice. @Biotope of course made its own contribution this week as well, with a picture of a lonely cabin in a white landscape.

Other Instagram gems include: infrastructure on Svalbard and a bearded seal (@darkseason); the Norwegian sky and a silhouetted moose (@raawspikez); Tromsø’s harbor and the Arctic cathedral (@djisupertramp); two images of the Sea of Okhotsk (@yakutia); crashing waves near Tromsø (@ninaanders1); a polar bear crossing sign on – one assumes – Svalbard (@statelyplump); and an unnamed winter road (@mdmbourgeois).

On Flickr, perennial favorite Clare Kines shared three great new photos this week, one of a dog curled up to ride out a winter blizzard, the second of an Arctic hare doing the same, and the third – truly special – of comet Pan-Starrs in the Arctic skies over Admiralty Inlet. You’ll also enjoy an image of a Yellowknife sunrise (Ronald Campbell).

Other great images: from the NASA Earth Observatory, of the development and disappearance of a meltwater pond atop the Greenland ice sheet; a great post-Iditarod photo from KNOM; and of the boat that will take the Kulluk to Asia, from Greenpeace Arctic Watch.

Last, let us direct you to two amazing videos of Northern Lights, both captured during this past week’s gaudy showing, from Loren Holmes (in Alaska Dispatch, with complementary photographs from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner) and Olafur Haraldsson (on Vimeo).

The Grab Bag

I am desperate to see Werner Herzog’s recent documentary “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” (KCUR), but I’m willing to bet it’s not coming to my local theater in rural-ish Germany, so I will have to content myself with recommending it to you. Let me know how it is. / An audio library of throat singing is a fascinating resource ( / Also fascinating is an audio map of Arctic Bay, with place-names spoken aloud in Inuktitut (Toronto Star). / Jason Roberts of the BBC’s Frozen Planet television series may be facing a fine for “bothering” polar bears on Svalbard in the process of filming (IceNews). / Some of the details of Inuktitut grammar are covered in this week’s wonderful Taissumani, a regular feature from Nunatsiaq News. A separate installment does some historical detective work, tracking an Inuit man who appears – or doesn’t – in records of Arctic voyages from the late 19th century. / AutoBlog took an episode-long, Mercedes-sponsored trip along the Dalton Highway; it makes entertaining TV. / A sporty Fairbanks couple recorded their March beach walk in Homer for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. / Canadian electropop singer Lights performed acoustic songs off an upcoming album in Inuvik, NWT (CBC). / Explorer John Huston (not THAT John Huston) is doing some serious, tire-pulling preparation for a three-month journey to Ellesmere Island (Outside). He says of such adventures: “If you’re not training, I doubt your commitment.”/ Google’s first efforts to camera-map Iqaluit for Street View have made for curious, entertaining news (G&M, CBC). / A post from Eye & Pen on hiking in Churchill, Manitoba looking for polar bears is enlightening reading. / Some forget that moose are dangerous, but Cathi Beck of Fairbanks got a rough reminder after surprising one just outside her home in Fairbanks (FNM). We’re glad Ms. Beck is OK. / Greg Hakonson of Dawson City, Yukon is pressing for the territorial government to take over some important Gold Rush-era sites from Parks Canada, which is facing budget cuts (CBC). / Above & Beyond, a Canadian magazine focused on the Arctic, has released its latest issue, available for download here.

This week’s credits

The Political Scene (Maura)
Energy (Kevin)
Science, Environment & Wildlife (Tom)
Military / Search-&-Rescue (Maura)
Mining (Kevin)
Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News (Tom)
Education, Health, Culture & Society (Maura)
Infrastructure (Tom)
Sports (Kevin)
Images & Video (Tom)
The Grab Bag (Tom)

Abbreviation Key

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
Aftenbladet (AB)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Alaska Native News (ANN)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
Bristol Bay Times (BBT)
BusinessWeek (BW)
Canadian Mining Journal (CMJ)
Christian Science Monitor (CSM)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
Fairbanks News Miner (FNM)
Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Government of Canada (GOC)
Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT)
Huffington Post (HP)
Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN)
Moscow Times (MT)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
Naval Today (NT)
New York Times (NYT)
Northern News Service Online (NNSO)
Northern Public Affairs (NPA)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Ottawa Citizen (OC)
Petroleum News (PN)
RIA Novosti (RIAN)
Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH)
Russia Today (RT)
Voice of Russia (VOR)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
Washington Post (WP)
Whitehorse Star (WS)
Winnipeg Free Press (WFP)