The Arctic This Week: 13 Apr 2013 - 19 Apr 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:16

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Reads of the Week

If you’re pressed for time this week, we’d suggest you spend your time on these six stand-out articles.

It is our delight to start you off with a sports article; they so rarely feature in our Reads of the Week. Writing in the New Yorker, Ben McGrath covers this year’s Iditarod. The article includes a great photo gallery by Toronto-based photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim, and it’s well worth a view if you have a subscription or can pick up a print copy.

Follow that with an interesting feature from NPR in covering the growing trade in mammoth ivory as tusks from long ago gradually emerge from the thawing Siberian permafrost.

The announcement of an Iceland-China free trade agreement, as well as President Grímsson’s media blitz in Washington, DC to announce the new Arctic Circle forum, were both big news. The best insight into the new forum comes from watching President Grímsson’s full interview at the Council on Foreign Relations (almost a full hour – sorry!). On the free trade agreement, we like a rough-hewn, opinionated but entertaining blog in the EU Observer on the developing China-Iceland arrangement and what it says about the EU’s role in the Arctic in comparison.

Telecommunications infrastructure in the Arctic is a subject of ongoing interest to us, considering what better connectivity could mean at a political, military, social and economic level. A good piece on precisely that comes from The Connectivist – it’s long, and well worth the investment of time.

Lastly, we’ll humbly point you to one of our own pieces, an article which questions the widespread assumption that the Arctic represents the world’s “new energy province”. While there is certainly oil and gas in the Arctic, when and at what level these resources will be exploited depends greatly on global energy markets, environmental concerns and the differing interests of regional and national players.

The Political Scene

Iceland, China and the Arctic Circle

Iceland's President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson gave the international media quite a lot of material this week. On Monday the 15th, Grímsson announced both a new Arctic forum (BO) and a free trade agreement between Iceland and China (The Economist). He didn’t stop there, but moved on to indicate his support for China’s move to observer status at the Arctic Council (The Guardian) and announced he was in Washington “to try to wake this town” (CFR video), urging America to get more engaged in its Arctic “backyard” (Washington Times).

Arctic News Map
The new forum, the Arctic Circle, will host its inaugural gathering October 12th-14th in Reykjavík. Announcing the new 501(c) 3 non-profit at the National Press Club in Washington (Arctic Portal), Grímsson advertised that the October meeting would be "an open, democratic tent where everybody who wants to participate will actually be welcome" (Reuters). In a nod to the inclusivity and high level of the new forum, Grímsson added, “Google is interested” (G&M). Although he carefully maintained that the Arctic Circle was not intended to rival the Arctic Council, it has been framed as an “all-inclusive challenge” to the Council (NN), as “political competition” for Canada’s upcoming chairmanship (G&M), and as a rival of the Norwegian-initiated Arctic Frontiers forum, which meets again in January (EOTA).

The free trade agreement, China’s first with a European nation, will waive most of the tariffs on over $420 million in bilateral trade between Iceland and China, strengthening the two countries’ partnership (The Economist). Considering that Greenland’s recent election hinged in part on the role of foreign investment, with Aleqa Hammond's Siumut party criticizing its predecessor for rushing a law allowing large mining projects to import labor from countries like China (CBC), the new agreement is a big deal for China. In an op-ed for the EU Observer, Ylva Elvis Nilsson questions whether China’s “strategic move” (Deutsche Welle) is in fact “mutually beneficial,” since selling Icelandic fish in the enormous Chinese market comes at the price of cooperation agreements with China and a promise to support China’s request to join the Arctic Council.

United States

Grímsson’s diplomatic blitz in Washington may have paid off. Earlier in the week, he criticized the United States for its lack of engagement in the Arctic and lamented that Secretary of State John Kerry had not decided whether he would attend this year’s meeting of the Arctic Council or not (Washington Times). Although this may be unrelated, after lawmakers urged Kerry to underscore the Arctic’s importance by appointing an ambassador to the Arctic (Foreign Policy Association), Kerry announced Thursday that he would attend the Arctic Council meeting in Sweden May 15th (Google). Also in Washington, Sally Jewell was sworn in as the Secretary of the Interior (Dep’t of Interior), and a delegation of Alaskans briefed Congress on the problem of unregulated and illegal fishing in Alaskan waters and the challenges posed to national security by increased maritime traffic (website of Representative Don Young).

The White House also issued a National Oceans Policy Implementation Plan (PDF) this week. While Nancy Sutley, the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and an instrumental figure in the development of the plan, said it embodied “efficient, collaborative government,” House Republicans warned the plan’s policies would increase the EPA’s regulatory control, not just over the oceans, but over land and air as well (WP). On a somewhat related note, Yup'ik fisherman cited for fishing despite river closures last summer are in an ongoing legal battle in Bethel, Alaska; they allege that the State of Alaska failed to uphold the fishermen’s constitutionally-protected right to fish (AD).


Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, briefly outlined the EU’s strategy for the Arctic in Strasbourg on April 17th. You can find his speech, which highlighted the EU’s intentions to work with Arctic stakeholders to develop the Arctic private sector in an environmentally friendly manner (United Press International), on the Europa website.

On Friday, Finland’s Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja gave a speech at an Arctic seminar on climate change and security organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. You can read the text of his speech as well as an outline of Finland’s Arctic policy on the foreign ministry’s website.

Following a three-day official visit to Sweden, India’s Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot expressed hope that the Arctic nation would support India’s Arctic Council application (News Track India). In related news, Canadian think tank CIGI released a policy brief supporting the admission of East Asian states as permanent Arctic Council observers.

It appears Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish politicians from the Barents region will be underrepresented in the Barents Parliamentary Conference, which is currently being chaired by Norway. Other than one Deputy County Governor from Norway, only Russian regional participants will attend, which Pavel Sazhinov, vice-speaker in the Murmansk Duma, considers “a pity” (BO).


Nunavut’s cabinet met April 11th, reaffirming the Government of Nunavut’s authority to manage and control the territory under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NN). As the result of a set of amendments to Nunavut’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner will now have the power to investigate government agencies for privacy breaches. The amendments are set to come into force later this spring (NN).


Brookings’ Energy Security Initiative held a forum (“Energy, Indigenous Communities, and the Arctic Council”) on April 17th. Video from the event is available on the Brookings website. / The Nenets Autonomous district was found to be the most efficient regional government in Russia, according to the Ministry of Regional Development (BO). / The International Conference “Arctic Cities, Global Processes and Local Realities” (December 2nd-4th, Rovaniemi, Finland) has put forth a call for papers. Send an abstract to by May 5th if you’re interested.


Does anyone else wonder about the enduring significance of “flag-planting”? I have to admit that when I see pictures of the Russian submersible’s mechanical arm gently placing a small Russian flag – such as one might find in an airport gift shop – on the seafloor of the North Pole, I can’t help but find the gesture a bit quaint. Kudos go nonetheless to four young explorers working with Greenpeace who made the trip to the North Pole under (mostly) human power this week to plant a flag of a different sort, a capsule containing 3 million+ signatures calling for a moratorium on oil drilling in the Arctic (Guardian). Click here for a picture of the “flag” as it descends into the abyss.

Our own Andreas Østhagen questions the widespread assumption that the Arctic represents the world’s “new energy province” in a short analytical piece this week. He reminds us that, while there is certainly oil and gas in the Arctic, when and at what level these resources will be exploited depends greatly on global energy markets, environmental concerns and the differing interests of regional and national players. An article from the Economist Intelligence Unit also scans the progress of oil and gas development in the Arctic and cautions that the inherent brakes on development (environmental, technological, economic, political) mean that we won’t likely see oil production until next decade. The Brookings Institute’s Energy Security Initiative hosted a forum this week to discuss how Arctic resource development can be pursued in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Speakers included Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, and Denmark’s Ambassador to the Arctic Klavs Holm, among many others. Full audio and video files of the proceedings can be found at the Brookings Institution’s website.


The Ministry of Economic Development has proposed cutting the government’s stake in Rosneft by 19 percent, leaving Moscow with a controlling 50.5% interest in the oil company (RBTH). Mikhail Serov places the recent deal inked between Gazprom and Shell over offshore exploration within the context of increasing competition between Gazprom and Rosneft for advantage in oil and gas exploration in Russia’s Arctic (RBTH). Rosneft meanwhile is moving forward on a joint venture with Italian oil major Eni to map the hydrocarbon potential of the Russian Barents Sea this year (BO). And to continue the flurry of joint activity with foreign firms, Rosneft also announced a memorandum of cooperation with Japanese company Marubeni to develop an LNG project in Russia’s Far East (NGE).

This week it was Deputy Minister of Energy Kirill Molodsov’s turn to remind us that Moscow hasn’t given up on the Shtokman project, though the technology needed to develop the project may be three to four years in the future (, in Russian). Statoil also continued to express interest in re-engaging with the project, even though it officially withdrew last year (BO).

An interesting article in Bloomberg News covers the Russian oil company OAO Surgutneftegaz, which will be revealing its current cash holdings in order to come into compliance with a new law on accounting standards. The company, Russia’s third largest oil company, has consistently outperformed its larger competitors Lukoil and Rosneft this year, and the new accounting rules are expected to bring more confidence and money from Western investors.

Progress continues on the joint Novatek-Total Yamal LNG project with the announcement that construction of the Sabetta sea port to service the massive project is set to begin this summer (BO).

What to do with Murmansk’s Kola nuclear power plant? Murmansk’s Governor Marina Kovtun is calling on Rosatom to come up with a plan for the aging plant, running well past its designed lifespan and plagued by technical issues, as well as push ahead with construction of a new plant to supply power to the region (BO). The Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nikolay Lavyorov also reiterated this week the importance of nuclear energy; be it small-scale power plants for northern communities or nuclear icebreakers, nuclear power is essential for the development of Russia’s North (BO).

European leaders are expressing strong support for Gazprom’s Nord Stream expansion to deliver more gas to hungry European markets, but Gazprom has postponed its decision on the expansion until a feasibility study on an alternate pipeline, the Yamal-Europe 2, is completed in October of this year (PressTV). Plans for the Yamal-Europe 2 pipeline caught Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk by surprise last week, and this week he dismissed his Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski for failing to inform him of the potential project that may run clear across Poland (Bloomberg).


Statoil will continue the steady northward march of its exploration activities into the Barents Sea this year, though they announced this week that they will postpone their most ambitious plans - drilling in the Hoop areas 300 km north of Hammerfest - until 2014 (BO). Further south, Statoil announced significant new finds in the North Sea (BBC). Seeking publicity and perhaps some future recruits, Statoil offices in Stavanger hung a banner addressing Justin Bieber fans during the artist’s three-night stand at the city’s Telenor Arena. The banner encouraged kids to study science, and a Statoil spokesman said he hoped it would encourage young women (Bieber’s main fan base, I believe) to pursue studies in science and engineering (AB).

The Lofoten Council, a political body which brings together representatives from all six municipalities in the Lofoten, called for dramatic improvements in oil spill response capabilities to protect the region and its fisheries from a crippling spill (AB).


Last month, Finland, for the first time since 1981, stopped importing electricity from Russia. Prices for electricity in the Nordic power system have been slowly falling over the past decade, and it is now cheaper to buy local than to import from Russia. This week, the flow has actually reversed: Russian utilities announced they will begin importing cheap hydroelectric power from Finland during times when Finnish energy prices fall below those in Russia (BO). Murmansk is also looking to import gas, of all things, from Norway to help reduce heating costs (BO).


Alaska’s new oil tax law was passed Sunday by the state legislature; Governor Sean Parnell welcomed the news, as did ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP, which lobbied heavily for the bill (NYT). The fight, however, is far from over. Opponents are already organizing to challenge the new bill, which they see as a handout to the oil companies at the expense of the state’s fiscal health, through a ballot referendum (FNM). The conflicts of interest that plagued the legislative process continue to fuel opposition to the bill, as in this editorial by Kate Troll in Alaska Dispatch. Now that the bill has been passed, its supporters say it is up to industry to deliver high levels of production through greater investment (FNM). It appears ConocoPhillips is doing its part; while the company might be postponing offshore development, it announced this week, only several days after the state passed new cuts in oil taxes, that it would increase investment in its North Slope fields this spring (FNM).

ShareAction, a charity promoting responsible investment, released a tidy investor briefing summarizing the Department of the Interior’s critical review of Shell’s 2012 drilling season in the Chukchi Sea. In spite of the bad press and government sanctions over its poor performance in 2012, Shell is signaling that it’s still in the game. Noble Corporation announced that Shell was hoping to extend its lease on Noble’s drillship the Noble Discoverer, currently under repair in South Korea, beyond 2014 (Reuters). Noble seems to have come through the 2012 season comparatively unscathed despite significant problems on the rig it supplied to Shell. The company announced that its earnings rose 25 percent in the first quarter of this year (FuelFix). Noble doesn’t think delays in Shell’s and ConocoPhillips’s plans for drilling in Arctic Alaska represent a large shift away from the Arctic overall, citing increased interest in projects on the Russian shelf (Marketwatch).

When ConocoPhillips announced that it would postpone plans for drilling in the Alaskan Arctic next year, it blamed unclear federal regulations and requirements. This elicited a response from Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes this week that the requirements are, in fact, clear: any company wishing to drill in Alaska’s Arctic must possess an organic capability to cap and contain any spill that occurs (FuelFix). Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell disagreed with Interior’s assessment, saying that different sized projects require different containment plans and a “one size fits all” approach will discourage smaller exploration projects (APM). Matt DiLallo provides analysis on the impact of regulatory and tax uncertainty in ConocoPhillips’s decision to postpone drilling for next year (Motley Fool). Meanwhile in Washington DC, members of the congressional commission that studied the Deepwater Horizon spill are saying that Congress has done very little to act on their recommendations and that risks of large-scale offshore spills continue, particularly in challenging environments like the Arctic (Politico).

Arguments continue over who should pay for the clean-up of over 100 legacy wells that the federal government drilled in the National Petroleum Reserve during the last century. The Department of the Interior has suggested that money to stabilize the wells should come out of the state’s 50% share of revenue from oil and gas activity, though Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski - and, I imagine, most Alaskans - are against using state funds to clean up after the federal government (press release).

In alternatives news, The US Department of Energy signed an agreement with the state of Alaska to collaborate on researching unconventional energy sources, particularly methane hydrates (Bloomberg).


An interesting short interview with Bharat Dixit of the National Energy Board on regulation and sustainable resource extraction in the Arctic calls attention to the fact that management failures can be just as damaging as technical failures in the event of an oil spill in the Arctic (About Oil).

The Yukon Electrical Company is looking to retrofit one its six generators at Watson Lake to run off a mix of diesel and natural gas. Seem a bit cautious? Due to a lack of infrastructure to distribute natural gas, the company is worried about supply problems. With this arrangement, the generator can be run on full diesel if gas, current planned to be trucked from southern BC, is unavailable (Yukon News).

Former Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador John Crosbie has put his support behind the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, calling it a risk worth taking for the region (CBC).

Science, Environment & Wildlife

NASA’s work in the Arctic

Mark Buesing, one of the three teachers taking part in NASA’s Operation IceBridge this year, has been providing great posts - particularly for those with only a passing familiarity with the natural sciences - covering IceBridge’s daily workings. Start with a couple of his posts explaining (1) the radar that the team uses to gather information on the ice surface and on the bedrock far beneath the ice and (2) the team that processes the massive quantities of data (2 TB daily) that the IceBridge sensors collect. Then get to know the team that keeps the IceBridge planes flying, and finish with a post on women in science and, in particular, Christy Hansen, the manager of operation IceBridge. You can see an interview with Mr. Buesing, author of these four posts, on Vimeo. Follow with a video detailing the Operation’s overflights of the Jakobshavn glacier, and finish with a gorgeous aerial photo of Baffin Island.

While the IceBridge team is busily at work, NASA’s Earth Observatory also has a team working on under-ice aquifers in Greenland. Check out these posts to see how they drag their radar array about on skis, or how they choose the best tools to tackle the new challenge of drilling into this sub-glacial aquifer.


Start your animal news with this video of dozens of ptarmigan feeding in somebody’s back yard in Yellowknife – they’re comical little birds and amusing to watch and listen to. Then move far up the food chain to polar bears, whose presence in Churchill, Manitoba is simply something that locals have built their lives around (Up Here). One Russian scientist is arguing that North American scientists, in the course of their research, are both misinterpreting their results and harming the bears themselves (The Australian). That same scientist says that Canadian documents permitting the export of polar bear products are being falsified and used to enable illegal trade worldwide (Yahoo). And, staying briefly on land before we move out to sea, it seems that snowshoe hares may be finding themselves inappropriately dressed (white coat before and after actual snow is present) more and more often as days of snow cover diminish in the years ahead (Mother Jones).

Now we move out to sea, where research focused on copepods demonstrates that wide variability in the contribution of zooplankton faecal pellets to the net downward movement of carbon through the water column is partially dependent upon the distribution of zooplankton itself at various depths (Polar Biology - $). A second piece of interesting new research looks at the distribution of prokaryotes and viruses in three marine environments between Halifax and Kugluktuk, Nunavut; the study demonstrates that distribution of prokaryotes and viruses are related in the Labrador Sea, but appear decoupled in Baffin Bay and in the Arctic archipelago. For more on the authors’ conclusions, go to the full paper (Nature – ISME Journal).

And finally, a note of sad farewell to Martin Bergmann, a well-loved scientist and advocate for interest in the Canadian Arctic; although he died in an airplane crash in 2011, the announcement came only this week that researchers have named an ancient, extinct fish in his honor - Holoptychius bergmanni (Jane Kokan).

Ice and Environment

There’s been a lot of talk about how the declining Arctic ice cap could be contributing to unseasonably cold weather in North America and Western Europe, as well as to “weird” weather more broadly. Rutgers professor Jennifer Francis gives a nice explanation of how, precisely, this connection could work (a 5-minute video well worth the watch). It’s not just the sea ice that’s declining; the latest edition of an “ice atlas” of sorts for Svalbard was released by the Norwegian Polar Institute; it shows diminishment of the archipelago’s glaciers over the past 30 years. An anxious post on the Arctic Sea Ice Blog laments an apparent lack of awareness of – and interest in – changes to Arctic sea ice, while the Aquablog points readers to the additional influence of cryoconite (dust on the ice surface) and the nature of microorganisms that thrive in this dust.

In an effort to highlight the global impact of melting Arctic sea ice, as well as to persuade the Powers That Be that the Arctic ought to be off-limits to oil & gas drilling, a team from Greenpeace successfully lowered a pod carrying 3 million petition signatures to the bottom of the sea at the North Pole (Reuters, NN).

There’s new environmental research out this week as well. A team from the Southwest Research Institute has been tracking long-term changes in lakes and ponds in the Alaskan Arctic to gain insight into permafrost degradation (Science Daily), while scientists further south in the state explained how it is that glacial moulins form and can be identified from the surface (FNM). Liz O’Connell offers an interesting profile of the orbiting Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which helped in part to acquire images of the dramatic breakup of the Beaufort Sea ice (, and the BLDG Blog gives us a window into rarely-seen research on snow, ice and Arctic architecture – which designs work best for which purposes – being conducted by students from the University of Lund. We also waved goodbye to a friend this week, as NOAA turned off its Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite NOAA-17. After exceeding its expected lifespan by eight years, and having completed 55,000 orbits of the earth, the satellite has done more than its duty.

National Parks

In Russia, a phalanx of students will spend this summer delivering the Franz Josef Land archipelago of its burden of industrial waste and old military equipment (BO). Next door in Finland, a proposal to set up a park in the country’s far North has locals worried that doing so would ruin the local economy by placing restrictions on what activities are permitted (YLE).

Events, Conferences and Other Tidbits

The American Polar Society celebrated its 75th anniversary in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. / A web-based event looking at international coordination in Arctic research is set to take place on 29 April; click here for more info or to participate. / The Arctic is one of several topics that will figure at the upcoming American Geophysical Union science policy conference in Washington, DC, 24-29 June. / The removal of prominent “Environment Canada” branding from the federal government’s weather website has some people concerned (CBC). / A new tool has been released that helps users to visualize the growth of the City of Iqaluit over the past 50 years (Arctic College).

Military / Search-&-Rescue

The third and final frigate commissioned by India from Russia in 2006 has completed sea tests. The long anticipated vessel should be handed over to the Indian Navy in June, reports RIA Novosti. Russia recently commissioned two new nuclear icebreakers, but is having trouble financing those vessels since the Ministry of Finance has said it will only cover around 40% of the cost (BO). The Royal Canadian Navy is also looking to gain more ships, and the Canadian government is committed to building the ships in Canada, rather than elsewhere, so that Canada might benefit from the “15,000 jobs and over $2 billion in annual economic benefits” associated with the effort (MarketWire). The Department of National Defense is also busy reformulating its proposal for the Nanisivik Naval Facility, reports Nunatsiaq News and CBC. The proposal was sent back by Federal Minister for Northern Development Bernard Valcourt, who said the military must clarify parts of the report for environmental regulators in Nunavut.

Finland has decided to participate in a joint, unarmed exercise led by Norway in Icelandic airspace next year (YLE), and Brigadier General Roger R. Machut visited the Arctic Circle April 14th-15th to observe the exercise IRT Arctic Care 2013, according to the Marine Corps website.



Iqaluit hosted the Nunavut Mining Symposium from 8 to 11 April. The symposium attracted about 500 delegates to discuss mining in Nunavut and across Canada’s North (NNSL). Declining mineral prices have made mineral development more difficult in Canada’s North this year, particularly for smaller exploration and development companies (NN).

Only a week after regulators green-lighted a full environmental assessment for MMG Ltd’s Izok Corridor mining project in Nunavut, the company is asking for a pause on the review as it contemplates changes to its plans for the proposed zinc, copper and lead mine (EOTA). The Nunavut Impact Review Board is seeking detailed plans for the project so it can assess potential impacts to the region (NN).

In spite of the recent rapid drop in gold prices, Agnico-Eagle, owner of the Meadowbrook mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, isn’t concerned, though the company’s spokesman said smaller mining companies will likely feel the pinch (EOTA). It appears that the Meadowbrook mine faces a much more intractable challenge with its operations: working with Nunavut’s labor force. Speaking at the Nunavut Mining Symposium this week, Agnico-Eagle’s Nunavut General Manager Denis Gourde cited some daunting labor statistics: 80% turnover since 2011, and an average of over 5% absenteeism every day. This article by Jim Bell in Nunatsiaq Online details Gourde’s remarks at the conference and many of the unseen challenges of mining and doing business in Canada’s far North. The mine is also continuing to deal with the presence of natural asbestos one year after the mineral was first discovered at the mine (NN).

Elsewhere in Nunavut, the Kivalliq Inuit Association is opposing a federal proposal to make the Black River a Canadian Heritage River, saying the designation would reduce the potential for mining development in the region (EOTA). And the feds are still searching for Shear Diamonds, the company that closed up shop at the Jericho diamond mine and then disappeared into thin air without paying over CAD 2 million dollars in clean-up costs (EOTA). And in the far North, shelved plans for the Bathurst road and port project are being rejuvenated after two large mining projects have expressed interest. The project would include a large port on Bathurst Inlet for ice-class vessels and roads to access interior mine sites (NN).

In the Northwest Territories, Arctic Star Exploration announced it would begin drilling at its Redemption diamond project in the Lac de Gras diamond fields (MarketWire). Avalon Rare Metals announced that initial infrastructure at the Nechalacho rare-earth mine at Thor Lake will cost over CAD 1.5 billion (CMJ).

In the Yukon, Kaminak Gold Corp. announced new quality finds at its Coffee gold project (CMJ). Meanwhile, Ottawa confirmed that the cleanup of the Giant Mine in Yellowknife will cost CAD 1 billion (CBC).


Though the new premier Aleqa Hammond has expressed approval for uranium mining, she is also concerned about the impact that mining will have the island’s communities, and she believes the country’s people should get their fair share of mining revenues (WP).


Mining production is up 9% percent over the 1st quarter of 2013 as compared to last year in the Murmansk region (BN). The mining company Norilsk-Nickel announced its net profit fell by 41% over the last year, even though production remained steady. The company blamed commodity prices and a large write-off due to securities holdings (BO).


The Talvivaara mine in eastern Finland is seeking permission from local authorities to increase discharge of water from the mine into local streams in order to ensure safe operations at the facility (YLE).

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News


The most headline-grabbing news this week was word of upcoming negotiations between the five Arctic littoral states on a potential accord to regulate fisheries in the Arctic (NYT). The Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission had good news this week – illegal fishing in the Barents appears to be under control (, although the Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Lisbeth Berg-Hansen pointed out, fairly, that it’s not possible to monitor every catch and every ship (Gov’t of Norway). Back in Alaska, new research on crab stocks in Bering Sea waters has some interesting implications for fisheries policy (SITNews).

For great photos of fish and other Norwegian wildlife, check out the work of Tromsø professor Audun Rikardsen, who recently won a “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” award ( – in Norwegian).


If you’re new to the issue of shipping in the Arctic, a quick introduction to the attendant issues can be had from, while those more deeply involved with Arctic shipping will doubtless find an overview of the Murmansk seaport’s 2012 final numbers fascinating to read (BO). For thoughts on Arctic shipping from the perspective of Churchill, Manitoba and Hudson Bay, turn to The Western Producer.

Aker Arctic Technology is the happy winner of a Finnish government contract for the design of an icebreaker intended to “perform oil spill response operations and […] emergency towing missions” (MarineLink). Meanwhile the newly-christened icebreaking supply ship Aleksey Chirikov, on its way to Russia’s eastern Arkutun-Dagi oil and gas platform, is the subject of a good profile from Maritime Propulsion.

Other Business News

The rise of entrepreneurship in Murmansk coincides with the government’s desire to diversify the region’s economy away from its few big industries (BO). The region is also issuing a call for bids to take on the project of branding the city for locals and tourists (BN), while the Barents Region as a whole is working on improving cross-border tourism in the area (BO). / Apatit, a Murmansk-based company producing a common base component of fertilizer, has been taken over 100% by its previous owner, Andrey Guriev (BO). / Murmansk’s rate of inflation was lower than that of many comparable Russian cities in the first quarter of 2013 (BN). / A seminar is coming up in Tromsø on how research in Norway’s North can be used to boost job growth in the region (SINTEF – in Norwegian). / Another event coming up in June in Akureyri is looking at the potential risks and benefits of developing an Arctic tourism industry (U Arctic). /

Health, Education, Culture & Society

Data released by Statistics Canada this month saw Yukon far surpass the national average for annual per-capita alcohol sales at CAD 1,319, compared to CAD 724, reported the CBC. Newfoundland and Labrador came in second (CAD 980), while the Northwest Territories and Nunavut shared third place with the average of CAD 948 (EOTA).

Neskantaga, a small First Nation in Ontario’s James Bay, declared a state of emergency this week following two suicides in less than a week and twenty suicide attempts this past year in the community of 421. Community officials say they hope Health Canada will step up to ensure Neskantaga has the resources it needs to deal with situation (CBC).

Nunavut Languages Commissioner Sandra Inutiq spoke before Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly this week, urging MLAs to incorporate Inuktitut into early childhood education to reverse the language’s current “advanced state of erosion” (NN). With similar aims in mind, Nunavik’s Avataq Cultural Institute also held its Annatuinniniq Uqausittinik (“saving our language”) conference this week (NN).

The Tromsø International Film Festival, which showcases short films made in Norway’s Arctic region, is touring Northern Russia from the 18th to the 28th of April. The theme of this year’s festival is Sami culture and identity (BO). You can watch the trailer for the Russian tour on youtube. In Iqaluit, the spring festival Toonik Tyme delighted audiences with traditional Inuit activities, music and competitions. You can find some highlights from the festival via Nunatsiaq News.


Starting with energy infrastructure, there’s further word that Murmansk officials are pushing for an extension to the working life of the Kola Nuclear Power Plant (Bellona). The two reactors concerned should in theory be taken out of service in 2018 and 2019, leaving Murmansk with an energy deficit. The Yukon Electrical Company is meanwhile exploring new fuels for Watson Lake; it’s looking at converting one of six of the town’s generators to run on liquefied natural gas (CBC).

In communications, Arctic Fibre has a (new?), useful and comprehensive set of answers to frequently asked questions – worth a read, for sure. A related post from The Connectivist covering the Arctic Fibre project, the need for it, and an example of a similar initiative from northern Ontario is also a really good read, giving time both to the costs and benefits of such connectedness. One such benefit is clearly the possibility of e-learning programs like the one currently being used in Tukloyakluk in the Northwest Territories (EOTA, in French).

In other infrastructure news, the Norwegian government announced it would support the substantial renovation and upgrading of Longyearbyen’s harbor to be a base for “rescue and pollution preparedness [and] maritime services” (BO). And in Alaska, the Point Thomson project on Alaska’s North Slope is the beneficiary of a custom-built water treatment plant to serve an expected 500 workers; the company (Lifewater) responsible has also done numerous projects in other hard-to-serve areas like Little Diomede island (FNM).



Ben McGrath writes about this year’s Iditarod for the New Yorker this week. The article includes a great photo gallery by Toronto-based photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim and is well worth a view if you have a subscription or can pick up a print copy. If you want to catch next year’s race, here’s a tip from the locals: book early, as accommodation is fairly tight in Nome (Daily Herald). In other mushing news, Jeff King placed first in this year’s Kobuk 440 sled dog race in Arctic Alaska, securing the $50,000 purse (FNM).

While it’s one thing to push one’s physical and mental limits in competition when money and fame are on the line, it’s quite another to do it just for the adventure of it. Read this article in the Anchorage Daily News about Caroline Can Hemert and Patrick Farrell’s 4,000 mile, 6 month human-powered trek from Bellingham, Washington, to Kotzebue, Alaska on foot, rowboat, skis, packraft, and canoe. You can also read about the couple’s exploits on their blog. For another tale of long-distance Alaska adventure, check out this article about Alaskan Billy Koitzsch, who completed a 2,000 mile bike ride over 40 days between Knik and Fairbanks in the middle of winter (FNM).

A vegan won this year’s female section of the North Pole Marathon. Fiona Oakes of Essex, UK, finished the course in 4 hours and 53 minutes (Buxton Advertiser).

A group of forty swimmers will take part in the Bering Strait Relay Swim between Alaska and Russia in July. The race will cover 96km in the chilly 5oc waters of the Bering Sea. More information can be found on the event’s website.

Some news to wrap up this year’s Arctic Man ski race, an event that takes place yearly in the Hoodoo Mountains south of Delta Junction. The course stretches over five miles. Skiers straight-line down the first hill, then catch a lift from a snowmachine to cruise up the second hill at incredible speeds, then race unaided down to the finish line. This year, a total of three skier/snowmachiner teams broke the elusive four-minute barrier on the course (FNM). This year is also the first year that adaptive skiers competed in their own category (FNM).


Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse hosted the first Yukon Arctic Sports Inter-school Championship last week with representatives from many of the region’s schools. The event included traditional Arctic games such as seal hop, scissor broad jump, Inuit stick pull, two foot high kick and Alaskan high kick. While Arctic sports have seen something of a revival in Alaska over the last two decades, this is the first attempt to bring the traditions back among youth in Whitehorse (WS).


For those of you who collect these types of things, you will want to make plans for a trip to the Longyearbyen Camping resort on Spitsbergen. There, they issue a “Longyearbyen Camping Arctic Naked-bathing Certificate” for swimming, naked of course, in the Arctic waters. You can find more information, including a list of rules, as well as a full list of the 372 brave souls who have been awarded the certificate, on the resort’s website.

Images & Videos

For images this week, start with this collection of photos from Ron Wassink of springtime activities in Iqaluit, Nunavut, including skijoring and igloo building. Next, peruse this album of photos from Canadian Joint Task Force (North) of Operation Nunalivut in Nunavut.
Here’s an odd collection. This album on follows a group of tourists as they take a sightseeing trip on an Antonov AN-2 along the frozen Lena River in Siberia. The album includes pictures of ice-roads over the frozen river and several different varieties of AN-2, as well as many shots of the eight or so tourists generally having a good time, mugging for the camera, posing in the pilot’s seat, and eating some stale looking pizza. Odd.

If you like glaciers, you’ve got two things to see this week from NASA. First, a beautiful shot of a glacier with terminal moraines from a fly-over of Baffin Island. Second, a video taken from a research plane flying low over Greenland, tracing glaciers from the sea up onto the island and pointing out some interesting morphology. For a whole slew of great glacier and sea ice shots, see this album at

For wildlife, see these images: long tailed ducks (@Biotope); and another shot of a long-tailed duck by Frode Falkenberg; an album of musk ox photos from National Geographic; and a porcupine in the NWT (Jason Simpson).

Some beautiful landscape photos from this week: a black sand beach on Iceland (@Earth_Pics); midnight sun in Svalbard (@sveinnare); and an aerial shot of the northern Norwegian town of Båtsfjord (@Biotope).

Some odds and ends: a picture of snow-covered caribou antlers from Tuktoyaktuk, NWT (@ecojackiejo); snow falling in April in Iceland (@haraldurhelgi); and a family sled dog ride in Arviat, Nunavut (Paul Aningat).

Finally, see this awesome video of northern lights in and around Tromsø, Norway by Ole C. Salomonsen.

The Grab Bag

NPR did a nice feature on Arctic melt which you can listen to on the NPR website. / Want to “experience life in the Arctic on iPad and iPad mini”? Check out the new app: An Interactive Voyage Through the Northwest Passage. / did a feature on a trip to the Norwegian Arctic which you can find on their website complete with photos of wolves, snowmobiles and the Northern Lights. / TV producer Kathryn Haydn-Hays visited Yellowknife in early April, and hopes to convince a cable network to pick up a series about Yellowknife Bay’s houseboat community. / The University of Alaska’s Museum of the North put out its FY2012 report, which you can find here. / Inhabitants of Murmansk have decided to erect a monument in honor of a local cat that allegedly journeyed 2,000 kilometers to return to its family after being lost in Moscow in the 1990s, says Barents Nova. / A profile in the Japan Times chronicles adventurer Tetsuhide Yamazaki, who says he saw the impacts of climate change first hand when he fell through sea ice during the winter of 2007. / Northern Journal did a feature (with photos) of Inuvik’s Muskrat Jamboree, held the weekend of April 5-8. / Moneysense Magazine rated Yellowknife the 25th best Canadian city to live in, while Whitehorse fell to 85th place after scoring twelfth in 2011 (CBC). / Olympic medalist Clara Hughes supports the Northwest Territories’ efforts to create a national park on Great Slave Lake (CBC). / Maribeth Murray was appointed as Director of the Arctic Institute of North America this week (University of Calgary). / Iqaluit Humane Society says it has too many dogs and too few responsible owners, causing problems for the shelter (NN).

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)
Johnson’s Russia List (JRL)
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)