The Arctic This Week: 04 May 2013 – 10 May 2013

By Tom FriesKevin Casey & Maura Farrell
The Arctic This Week 2013:18

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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 stand-out items.

Start this week with a video, produced by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (an Arctic Council working group), covering Arctic Ocean acidification. It’s about 12 minutes, nicely produced, clear and informative. Stay in the natural sciences with a great article on narwhals from Isabelle Groc – the first of what promises to be an excellent series.

On the political side, we’re glad to point to an article from Tim Querengesser, a prolific commentator on Canadian politics, society and culture. His article “Decision Time on Aboriginal Issues” is a thoughtful reflection on the false dichotomy between success for Canada’s Aboriginal communities and success for the country as a whole. Follow that with a fascinating and fresh look at Russia’s “pivot” to the North. The article from Salma Yusuf in Eurasia Review argues that in a few decades, if it works to integrate itself in global commercial and financial networks and welcome international business, Russia could become “a new geographical pivot among the great powers”. Try to ignore any ads for Russian dating websites.

Move next to a great interactive map detailing search-and-rescue operations in Northern Canada since 2010, from the Canadian International Council (CIC), and finish your politics reading with an article in Baltic Review that catalogues the known extent of nuclear facilities on and around the Kola Peninsula. Turns out there are over 200 known nuclear reactors in the region, many on ships and submarines of the Russian Navy.

Move on to energy, where you should begin with this article by Darren Campbell in Alberta Oil Magazine that looks at the drive to develop the Canol shale in Canada’s Northwest Territories and the geologic, regulatory and infrastructure challenges that stand in the way. And finish your Reads of the Week with this article by Alexandros Petersen in Foreign Policy, in which he explores Gazprom’s fall from grace due to the company’s inability to face the rapidly evolving challenges of global gas markets.

The Political Scene

The runup to the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting continued to dominate Arctic cyberspace. Next week, when we get to report on the actual meeting, can’t come soon enough. Ambassador Gustaf Lind, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, hosted a pre-Kiruna press briefing in Stockholm on Wednesday, which you can watch on the Swedish Government’s website. Ambassador Lind is clearly very busy at the moment; the day after his Stockholm briefing he could be found in Washington, DC, participating in a panel discussion at the Swedish Embassy on the upcoming meeting. If you don’t know much about Kiruna, this article from the Barents Observer will help you wrap your head around exactly where all the action will be taking place next week. The ministers will be eating lunch underground at the town’s signature mine on Wednesday, according to Nunatsiaq News.

Arctic News Map
The candidates for permanent observer status also continued to be a popular topic. China’s relationship with both Iceland (Real Clear World) and Greenland (International Relations and Security Network) cropped up in editorials in relation to both countries’ domestic politics. In Canada, Members of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly, which began its spring sitting this week (BO), passed a motion on Thursday asking that the EU’s application be denied (NN), largely in reaction to the EU’s controversial ban on seal products ( The Assembly also passed a bill amending Nunavut’s Integrity Act (NN). Nunatsiaq News provides an  in-depth discussion of whether Canada should veto the EU’s application, if you’re interested in knowing a bit more.

Since Canada will be assuming chairmanship of the Council at the meeting, Canada’s role in the Arctic was a hot topic. The National Post published a week-long series in collaboration with the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) delving into Canada’s opportunity for Arctic leadership. The series included articles on enhancing Canadian-Russian partnerships, “North America’s neglected North,” and upcoming Arctic Council chair Leona Aglukkaq. If you’re francophone, Jocelyn Coulon’s “Le siècle de l’Arctique” is a nice summary of some of the current issues (La Presse). CDFAI Fellow Joël Plouffe also published a policy update paper, “Towards a North American Arctic Region” (PDF), and the Canadian International Council (CIC) created a beautifully designed map detailing search-and-rescue operations in Northern Canada since 2010, when the Arctic Council concluded its Agreement on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue. The million-dollar question for Canada lately, as CIC put it, is “Are we ready?”

Washington addressed that question for itself in a big way when it released the National Strategy for the Arctic Region (PDF) on Friday. The National Strategy’s three-pronged effort focuses on advancing security interests, pursuing responsible stewardship, and strengthening international cooperation. Explicit mention is also made of coordinating national efforts with the State of Alaska and Alaska Native communities. Bob Herron and Lesil McGuire, co-chairs of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, reacted positively to the National Strategy. “To the Obama Administration, we say yes, we are here, ready and looking forward to these conversations in our home sovereign” (Alaska House of Representatives). If you’re interested in seeing how Washington’s Arctic Strategy stacks up, Lassi Heininen (who has been invited to join the Arctic Circle’s International Advisory Board) wrote a summary of the “State of the Arctic Strategies” (PDF) for the Arctic Yearbook last year, and TAI’s own Mihaela David provides a breakdown of what the strategy offers – and what it lacks – on our website.

All in all, the National Strategy fits in with Washington’s slow but appropriately timed response to the increasing urgings (AD) of Arctic stakeholders. Icelandic President Grímsson chose to launch the Arctic Circle from Washington, Secretary Kerry is officially making the trip to Kiruna (US Dept. of State), the Center for Strategic and International Studies proposed Arctic policy reforms (The Business Mirror) and the Hoover-Brookings Arctic Project recently hosted roundtables on Arctic Security. Since the US will be taking over chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Canada in two years, representing a geopolitical shift in Arctic governance towards the North American Arctic (Parliament of Canada), it’s about time US policy firmed up.

Speaking of geopolitical shifts, a fascinating article in Eurasia Review highlighted not familiar arguments of the economic potential for offshore drilling and commercial shipping in Russia as a result of climate change, but the potential for greater diplomatic integration as the result of a Russian “pivot” to the North. The article argues that in a few decades, if it works to integrate itself in global commercial and financial networks and welcome international business, Russia could become “a new geographical pivot among the great powers.”

In northern Russia this week, war veterans in Yakutsk unveiled a controversial monument to Joseph Stalin in honor of Victory Day (RT), and diplomat Ole Andreas Lindeman was announced as Norway’s new Consul General in Murmansk, beginning in the fall (BO).

Jumping back to Canada for a moment, things still don’t look so hot on the Canadian home front. Stephen Harper is currently suffering from “brand deterioration” and accumulating a legacy of “nastiness” (Toronto Star), and lately Canadian relations with her Aboriginal peoples are beginning to resemble two siblings on the brink of estrangement. Following a dialogue out of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute that we highlighted last week, Tim Querengesser agreed in his column Peace Pipe that now is “decision time” for Canada’s Aboriginal issues. Where industry is concerned, what’s good for Canada and the aspirations of Aboriginal peoples (Canada Newswire) aren’t so much at odds. This isn’t so much the case in Yukon, however, where an ongoing land claims dispute has been sent back to the Supreme Court (CBC).



There were a number of articles this week on tight oil and gas plays in the Northwest Territories. Husky Energy completed two wells in its Canol oil shale prospect in NWT. While touted as “the next Bakken”, exploiting the Canol fields will take significant investments in infrastructure as well as navigation of NWT’s regulations on hydraulic fracturing (PN). ConocoPhillips is planning to drill two exploratory wells in the Canol this coming winter to explore the use of fracking technology in NWT, though debate continues as to whether an environmental assessment will be required for the project (CBC). Shell attempted a similar project a year and half ago, but cancelled it when the Sahtu Land and Water Board required an environmental assessment. This time around, local residents are urging the board to forgo an assessment for the exploration phase to help spur development in the region (CBC). A detailed article by Darren Campbell in Alberta Oil Magazine looks at the drive to develop the Canol shale and the geologic, regulatory and infrastructure challenges that stand in the way. Lone Pine Resources announced it had located viable shale gas deposits near Fort Liard, NWT (CBC), and Canada’s National Energy Board issued a declaration supporting Lone Pine’s operations there, which is the first such declaration the Board has provided for an unconventional prospect (press release).

In spite of recent advances in the study of methane hydrates, Canada has decided to discontinue funding for further research on the promising fuel supply found abundantly in offshore and permafrost environments (CBC).


Under pressure from industry and state politicians, the Interior Department announced that it would release Arctic-specific regulations to guide offshore Arctic oil and gas exploration (WSJ). Final rules are expected later this year; they will likely mirror the requirements levied on Shell’s 2012 exploration campaign, including a containment system for responding to blow-outs and a back-up rig for drilling relief wells (Fox). According to new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the department is very close to releasing new regulations for hydraulic fracturing, completing a year-long review after environmental groups complained that initial regulations were too accommodating to industry (Reuters). Alaska Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski are both pressuring Interior to hurry up, saying that the regulatory ambiguity is delaying development of Alaska’s Arctic shelf (The Hill). The Bureau of Land Management has also been under pressure by Senator Murkowski, who has called on the federal government to clean up over a hundred legacy wells that were drilled in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska between 1944 and 1981. The BLM released a plan this week to remediate the wells, though Murkowski criticized the plan for addressing less than half of the wells in need of clean-up (ABM). Murkowski called the plan, which calls for diverting oil revenue funds from the state to pay for the clean-up, “dead on arrival” (KTOO).

Rural Alaskans fed up with high fuel and energy costs are taking matters into their own hands. The Alaska Village Electric Cooperative has assembled its own tugs and barges to transport fuel to remote villages, avoiding contracted transportation costs and passing the savings on to local consumers (EOTA).

A recent assessment of the tidal energy potential of False Pass in the Aleutian Islands has energy experts shaking their heads in disbelief. The strait’s notoriously swift currents have the potential to create unprecedented amounts of energy, if only it could be developed and the power could be transported to market (AD). Another alternative energy source is being exploited outside Anchorage. Methane gathered from Anchorage’s landfill is being piped next door to a power plant on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (AD).

The state’s fiscal health was the topic of discussion during the Alaska Gas and Oil Association’s annual luncheon. University of Alaska Professor Scott Goldsmith presented his assessment that the state will face a serious fiscal crunch in the next decade due to declining oil production and high levels of state spending. The solution, according to Goldsmith? Reinstate a state income tax; doing so would give Alaskans a reason to keep a tighter rein on state spending (AD).


The Arctic Oil and Gas Summit will convene in Oslo on 18-19 June (LNGWorldNews).

An interview with Statoil Vice President of Technology and Drilling Margareth Ovrum offers an interesting perspective on how the Norwegian company views Arctic oil exploration. According to Ovrum, Statoil divides the Arctic into three classes. The ‘workable’ Arctic includes those sites that can be explored with today’s technology, while the ‘stretch’ and ‘extreme’ Arctic will require increasing levels of technological innovation to facilitate safe operations. This scheme reflects Statoil’s incremental approach to Arctic oil exploration (Fuel Fix).

Following Nordic neighbors Finland and Sweden, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has proposed cutting taxes for indigenous businesses and making up the difference by raising taxes on multinationals and adding one percent to the country’s petroleum tax (IceNews). An article in Natural Gas Europe sees a political motivation for the tax policy change. Some – including University of Stavanger Professor Petter Osmundsen - are warning that tax increase will hurt state coffers in the long run as they will discourage investment and exploration (AB). Statoil has also registered its objection to the new tax, saying it could jeopardize future oil and gas projects (Platts).

The Norwegian government announced it was allocating NOK 18 million to exploration ventures on the Icelandic shelf between Iceland and Norway’s Jan Mayen Island. The project will be run jointly with Iceland (press release – Norwegian). The Energy Ministry also released estimates of net cash flow from petroleum activities for 2013 – a healthy NOK 348 billion, including up to NOK 213 billion in tax revenue (press release – Norwegian).

Norwegian oil and gas company Det Norske Oljeselskap announced its operations were NOK 282.7 million in the red for the first quarter of the year, though this is an improvement from last year and the company sees good days ahead with discoveries coming on-line (AB).

Eni has commissioned a ten-year contract for a supply vessel to support its ongoing operations in the Goliat oil field in the Barents Sea (Offshore).

Norway was well-represented at this week’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas. Forty representatives from the Norwegian oil and gas industry made the trip, which also marked the 40th anniversary of Norway’s participation at the conference (IceNews).

In renewable news, Varanger Kraft announced it is investing NOK 600 million to install 15 new wind turbines in a particularly windy spot on the Barents Sea coast near Berlevåg (BO).


The tide has turned on Gazprom’s dominance of gas markets across Eurasia, though no one seems to have told Gazprom this. Alexandros Petersen provides great analysis of Gazprom’s fall from grace for Foreign Policy. Petersen presents a laundry list of challenges that Gazprom has been unable to face – including rising competition from Central Asia, the rise of China and the shale gas revolution – that have left the company with declining profits. Gazprom supplies up to 10 percent of Moscow’s export revenues, and the company’s decline could create economic and political problems for Russia.

Oil production was up across Russia’s energy sector by 1.5 percent in April, bringing total production to 10.47 million barrels a day, nearly a record for the post-Soviet period (Bloomberg).

M.N. Sharma presents an interesting perspective on Russia’s claims concerning its Arctic continental shelf in Mainstream. He suggests that New Delhi should back Moscow’s expansive claims to the Arctic seabed, or else risk getting locked out of the region’s rich resources.

Following on a series of articles last week on the danger of nuclear waste in Russia’s Arctic, an article in the Baltic Review catalogues the known extent of nuclear facilities in and around the Kola Peninsula. Turns out there are over 200 known nuclear reactors in the region, many on ships and submarines of the Russian Navy.

Science, Environment & Wildlife


For once, polar bears took a back seat this week to one of their prey species - seals. Canada’s accession to the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, recent politicking in Luxembourg, and the upcoming decision on which new applicants the AC will sanctify with observer status, have all combined to throw the spotlight on the EU’s ban on the trade of seal products and Canada’s strong objection to it. A fascinating and strongly-worded opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen looks at the WTO’s potential involvement with the ban on “moral and spiritual grounds” – a highly unusual basis for a trade protest. The same author, Terry Glavin, delivers a heavier load of shared opinion and supporting arguments via a later article in the National Post. He refers to an online petition begun by Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak. Nunavut’s environment minister James Arreak also expressed his displeasure with the “hypocrisy and neo-colonialism of the EU” (NN).

Taking a very different tack, the Seal and Sealing Network is running a contest for original art in any medium that conveys the “social, cultural and economic importance of sealing” (NN), and Michele Henry in the Toronto Star looks at seals as a critical and sustainable part of the diet of Northern communities.

Across the pond in Finland, the world’s most endangered species of seal – Saimaa seals, of which only 310 are estimated to remain – will be protected by six new reserves totaling 94 hectares (only .94 square kilometers) (YLE).


New research published in PLOS (the Public Library of Science) suggests that the puzzling decline of the Arctic fox population on Russia’s Mednyi Island in the 1970s was due not to illness, but to an exclusive reliance on seafood and the attendant overconsumption of mercury. The research is summarized in the Guardian; it illustrates the critical role that diet plays in the health of subpopulations of species. Dall sheep in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains are also declining, also mysteriously. Scientists are hard at work to understand what is behind declining fertility, since predation alone does not seem to explain the population’s shrinking numbers (a detailed and fascinating article from Alaska Dispatch).

Parts of 50 caribou were discovered illegally wasted in the Northwest Territories, where hunters are required by law to make use of what they kill (CBC). Next door in Yukon, hunters were slapped with heavy fines and hunting bans after illegally hunting a grizzly and a black bear, as well as wasting most of the meat from two moose (CBC). Yet further West, the grizzlies in Denali National Park are waking up for the season (FNM).

Moving out to sea, an apparent increase in population and range for humpback whales in the North Pacific has led to calls from a Hawaiian organization to recognize North Pacific humpbacks as a distinct subpopulation and remove them from the endangered species list (AD). The much less wellstudied narwhal is the subject of a fantastic article – the first in a long series – from Isabelle Groc (

Other creatures

The latest installment of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment from the Arctic Council working group on the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna will be released at the upcoming ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden (CAFF Secretariat).

Crees from James Bay in Quebec are identifying changes in the migration routes taken by geese that the community hunts each year (CBC). Indeed, this weekend (11-12 May) marks World Migratory Bird Day; a wonderful article in Deutsche Welle – well worth reading – highlights some of the key figures in monitoring of Arctic migratory birds and asks us to “spare a thought for our feathered friends”. Connected to this is the signing, a couple of weeks ago, of an agreement between the Arctic Council’s CAFF Working Group and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Fauna to improve efforts to “protect and conserve Arctic migratory species” (

The body size of wolf spiders in Greenland changes along with their elevation, and – in some species – their fertility is affected as well (Polar Biology).

Arctic Ocean acidification

This week’s conference on Arctic Ocean acidification in Bergen, Norway, led by the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme working group, garnered plenty of attention thanks to its findings about the speed and spread of acidification in the Arctic Ocean. AMAP presents those key takeaways tidily and clearly here (via CICERO, or here via Mother Jones), and the full study will be presented at the ministerial meeting in Kiruna. Several news outlets provided similarly-toned overviews of the conference and key findings (BBC, Barents Observer, and the most panicked-sounding from the Independent), while AMAP itself produced a wonderful brief documentary on the subject, available via Vimeo. The WWF points out briefly that policies to tackle this problem must not focus on acidification alone, but must take into consideration other environmental stressors, and Norway’s NRK provides an interesting interview with some of the study’s authors (in Norwegian). There’s also laboratory research underway at CICERO which should help us to gain insight into the likely impact of such acidification on various marine creatures.

Work from AMAP, CAFF and other Arctic Council working groups will be covered at a series of seminars in Kiruna on 14 May, prior to the ministerial meeting (Arctic Council).


Next to the AMAP video mentioned above, perhaps the most impressive science video to come out this week is a time lapse of a large calving event at Greenland’s Helheim Glacier (Swansea University). Couple that with a pair of narrated satellite photos of sea ice in the Bering Strait (Discover). APECS also provided several recordings of their science webinars, which cover such subjects as (1) measurements of sea ice around Svalbard using airborne instruments, (2) analysis of the permafrost on Svalbard, (3) research on the atmosphere above Svalbard, and (4) what we can learn about paleoceanography from data taken from the waters around Svalbard.

NASA has sent a robot – GROVER, who is reminiscent of a small solar-powered tank – for a test run on Greenland’s ice cap to assess its capabilities as a research tool. Using ground-penetrating radar, the robot could provide a cost-effective way to gather data that doesn’t endanger scientists or require expensive satellite or flight missions (NASA, Discovery, EOTA, and a portrait of GROVER from @NASA_ICE). Far away in eastern Siberia, scientists have hauled a 318-meter sediment core illustrating 3.6 million years of Arctic climate from the bottom of Lake El’gygytgyn (RIAN). Perhaps worryingly, records from the Pleistocene and Pliocene eras suggest that, with CO2 levels not much higher then than they are today, the Arctic was warm and forested ( Greenpeace has been illustrating the contemporary loss of sea-ice volume with several useful and easy-to-grasp analogies, while the National Snow & Ice Data Center dives deep into the potential impacts of massive permafrost thaw.

The changing Arctic climate of course impacts the people who have made their homes in the Arctic for centuries, if not millennia, including Russia’s Nenets. The challenges facing the Nenets are the subject of an article in Physics Today, while Bioforsk put out a new video about the effects of extreme winter warming in the High North, and Bloomberg News spoke with Alice Rogoff about the different ways in which the United States is being affected by environmental change in the Arctic (video interview). Greenpeace took an amusing step to convey the same message, sending Arctic cheerleaders to the US State Department (photo from @emilykindle).

Speaking of the Arctic and the United States, a special nod is due to Jill Burke at Alaska Dispatch for her healthy skepticism; she didn’t simply jump on the bandwagon of people raving about an emergency high-level White House meeting on the melting Arctic. Based on what I’ve seen, any such meeting was either greatly overhyped or super-secret. I can see no reason for the latter.

At a much more local level, the delayed spring faced by many in Alaska and northern Canada means that there is nail-biting going on about the upcoming risk of flooding whenever river ice finally breaks up. Nathan Vanderklippe writes on the phenomenon for Up Here, while communities are on alert in Yukon (CBC), the Kuskokwim River delta (KYUK), and across Alaska (AD). The real danger is a long, cold spring followed by a sudden “warm snap” late in the season, but this doesn’t seem to be in the forecast for Alaska, at least. Indeed, Fairbanks has only just hit the 50-degree mark for the first time since 4 October 2012 (FNM).

Persistent toxins also present an ongoing danger to Arctic ecosystems. The Norwegian Polar Institute is monitoring organic pollutants among populations of Arctic seabirds, while a researcher from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research is focused instead on the presence of heavy metals in the Barents region (BO), the byproduct of smelter activity in the region. Indeed, on May Day in the town of Nikel in the Russian Barents, emissions of sulfur dioxide reached their highest level thus far this year (BO).


Take some time to dig through the wealth of new research added to the ASTIS database this week. / Get a lovely overview of some of the key “hot” issues in Arctic science from David Carlson, Director of the International Polar Year’s International Programme Office in this excellent feature in Environmental Earth Sciences. / Canada’s National Research Council has been told to focus on research that has clear potential for commercial application (CBC). Draw your own conclusions as to the wisdom of that decision, but listen first to this extremely thoughtful interview with Nobel prize-winning Canadian chemist John Polanyi from the CBC’s As It Happens. / The EU’s INTERACT program offers access to research facilities in the high North; applicants may apply later this year (Arctic Portal). / Sweden suddenly has a massive and extremely expensive problem with radioactive waste (EOTA). / A possible tug-of-war is shaping up between Alaskan and federal authorities over regulatory oversight of Alaska’s wetlands (EOTA). / Svalbard’s new largest lake has been named Trebrevatnet (NPI – in Norwegian).

Military / Search-&-Rescue

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the North Atlantic Council ambassadors visited Norway this past week, wrapping up the short visit on May 7 with a visit to Bodø, where the Norwegian Armed Forces operational command center is situated (NATO). More on the visit is available from and the University of Tromsø’s website. NATO Review also interviewed Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide (looking chummy and fluorescent with Secretary General Rasmussen in this twitpic), which you can watch on the Atlantic Council’s website.

Rob Huebert kicked off a series of articles published in the National Post this week about Canada’s role in the Arctic Council by suggesting that security concerns be put back on the proverbial table at the Council. Justifying his argument, Huebert maintained that Arctic militaries have increased their roles in the region beyond traditional roles, especially where nuclear deterrence is considered.

Canadian search-and-rescue preparedness was a popular topic again this week, after the release of the Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s spring report April 30 suggested that  “significant improvements” needed to be made (NN). The Canadian International Council (CIC), in partnership with the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program, created a beautifully designed map detailing search-and-rescue operations in Northern Canada since 2010, highlighting the accidents and responses.

Ferguson has really had his hands full lately, as he has announced he will investigate the Harper Government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (G&M). This announcement came after CBC released the results of an investigation claiming that Canada was overpaying for the design of its Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (BO). The ships, known as “A/OPS”, came up in last week’s issue of TATW, when Michael Byers lamented the “remarkable slowness” of the ships (the Ottawa Citizen recently echoed Byers’s frustrations). Irving Shipbuilding, responsible for the design of the A/OPS, responded to CBC’s accusations in a full-page ad in the Ottawa Citizen, calling the claims “inaccurate and inflammatory” ( Colin Robertson, vice president of the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute, made the case for enhanced Canadian naval power in the Globe and Mail, arguing, “our national interest requires a strong Navy backed by a muscular shipbuilding industry.” It’s going to be a bit tough, since the Canadian Coast Guard’s new polar-class icebreaker, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, is scheduled to be built at the same time as the Navy’s Joint Support Ship, and the Vancouver shipyard charged with the work isn’t equipped to build both (

The Russian Navy plans to re-commission three nuclear submarines by next year (Naval Today), a cause for concern for observers around the Barents Sea (Baltic Review). Although the Baltic Review piece listed a series of accidents attributable to Russia’s Northern Fleet as reason for concern, Barents Observer reported that US naval intelligence indicates that Russia’s ballistic missile submarines have only conducted five patrols this past year, so these concerns may be exaggerated.

The US Coast Guard is scaling back its Arctic patrols this summer, citing budgetary constraints and lack of commercial development (Royal Dutch Shell will not return to the Arctic for drilling this summer) in the region as reasons for the cutbacks (San Francisco Chronicle).


Norway and Russia’s navies began their annual POMOR exercise this week (BO). / The investigative report following the crash of a Norwegian transport plane into Sweden’s Kebnekaise Mountain during Cold Response 2012 has been delayed yet again (BO). / This Easter, Russian planes flirted with Swedish airspace in a training exercise which caused some anxiety in Sweden. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt recently assuaged these worries, saying that “we have a very good picture of what happened”, but that he could not disclose the purpose of the exercise (EOTA).


Indigenous representatives from Canada, Norway, Australia and Colombia joined representatives from the UN and the mining industry to release a new report on the rights of indigenous communities to “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” concerning mining projects on their lands ( A full copy of the report can be accessed here.


The Geological Survey of Canada is planning to test the use of aerial remote sensing to aid in mineral exploration in remote parts of Nunavut. The hope is that the advanced technology will help identify promising areas for field exploration (EOTA).

The Yukon Water Board has given the go-ahead to Eagle Industrial Minerals Corp. to begin operations to extract magnetite from the mine tailings of the abandoned Whitehorse copper mine. The project, located within the Whitehorse city limits, has raised concerns amongst nearby residents of potential groundwater contamination, though a representative from the Yukon Conservation Society has said the risks of contamination are slim (YN). A small amount of surface runoff from snow melt broke through a clay dam at the Giant Mine site this week and spilled into a nearby creek. Testing is being conducted to determine the extent of any contamination (CBC). Miners all over Yukon are facing a tough spring, with heavy snowfall and fluctuations in commodity prices making for a challenging operating environment (YN). Victoria Gold Corp. joined other small gold exploration companies in Yukon to announce it would delay construction of its Eagle Gold project due to the difficult financial climate (EOTA).

James Munson looks at the fate of the proposed Thaidene Nene National Park in the Northwest Territories as interested parties wait for a long-overdue assessment from the Natural Resources Department on the mineral potential of the region (iPolitics). Meanwhile, cleanup will begin at Yellowknife’s Giant Mine, where asbestos and arsenic residues remain in the abandoned mine’s roaster complex (CBC).

Nunavut residents interested in a future in the mining industry have the opportunity to take a free, week-long course in basic mineral prospecting, funded by Nunavut’s economic development department. After the basic course, graduates can move on to apply to become paid prospectors (NN).

A trip report in the Independent describes the Nunavut Mining Symposium, held last month in Iqaluit, and the dramatic impact that the growth in mining development has had on Nunavut. Junior mining company TMAC is looking to revitalize the Hope Bay gold mine near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The mine was developed by Newmont Mining Corp., but was shut down in 2012, much to the chagrin of local residents. TMAC acquired the project from Newmont and has raised CAD 50 million, but must raise much more capital in order to put the mine into production (CBC). Plans for the proposed Izok mine in western Nunavut continued to develop this week with MMG Resources Inc. announcing that it would provide new development plans to the Nunavut Impact Review Board by December of this year (NN).

The Parti Québécois government has announced new tax rates on the mining industry which will take effect in 2014. The new taxes are expected to raise between CAD 73 and CAD 200 million dollars a year for the province (NN). The Grand Council of the Crees is concerned that the new mining taxes could slow down mining development in northern Quebec (CBC).


It’s been touch-and-go for some time now with the Kaunisvaara iron mine project in northern Sweden, but this week Northland Resources announced that it has secured sufficient capital to keep the mine in operation (BO).


Millrock Resources Inc. announced it has reached an agreement with the Bristol Bay Native Corporation over exploration of several known copper and gold deposits on the Alaska Peninsula (ABM).

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News


Alaska’s fishing industry is on its ramp-up towards a summer peak; it’s expected to offer tens of thousands of temporary jobs by mid-summer (ADN). Alaskan freezer longliner firm Blue North Fisheries is adding a Norwegian-designed ship to its fleet that will feature an internal haul area and an onboard fishmeal-processing plant. The first should, in theory, allow more “careful release of non-targeted species” and protect workers, while the second will help the boat push towards 100% protein usage with less waste (Cordova Times). In Norway, a new package of tax benefits for “mainland” businesses is intended to help reduce the imbalance between the exploding oil & gas sector and Norway’s other industries; it’s expected to pay particularly nice benefits to the fisheries sector (Gov’t of Norway, in Norwegian). At the same time, it seems (if I understand the Google translation correctly) that the government is working to put rules in place which would diversify the salmon-farming industry in the country (Gov’t of Norway, in Norwegian). And in neighbor Iceland, one company is planning to resume commercial fishing of fin whales this season (IceNews). Let’s see how the reaction – if any – compares to the arguments over the Canadian seal hunt and the failed initiative to up-list polar bears under CITES.


The perhaps unsurprising consensus reached in last week’s Canadian Arctic Marine Transportation and Governance Workshop in Iqaluit, Nunavut, seems to have been that Nunavut will require development of facilities for “sealift, cruise ships, the navy and trans-polar travel” in the decades ahead (CBC). In Finland, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen is trying to look positively at the impending whole or partial sale of shipyards in Rauma, Turku and Helsinki by ailing South Korean builder STX; perhaps a Finnish buyer can be found (YLE)?

The European Union’s interest in the Arctic as a shipping and transit corridor are covered in detail by TAI’s Andreas Raspotnik in a recent brief for the European Parliament – the Arctic figures most prominently in section 4.3. And a shipping-focused conference is coming up in Seattle; check the invitation and description here.

Other industries & general business news

Up Here Business issued its annual tourism report card for Canada’s three northern territories this week. It puts a brave face on the bright spots it identifies for each of the territories (northern lights in the NWT, winter tourism in Yukon, wildlife photography in Nunavut), but identifies some serious challenges that face each one as well. Whatever its challenges may be, Yukon has apparently enjoyed a 25% increase in the number of visitors coming in over the past decade; those tourists apparently come primarily for wildlife viewing and Gold Rush history (CBC). And in Alaska, Alaska Native cultural tourism has grown enough that there’s now a market for consulting services to help other potential venues develop their own attractions (FNM).

The Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce is at work to generate consumer preference for items actually manufactured in the NWT with its “made in the NWT” campaign (CBC). It’s also looking to attract workers from the South with such initiatives as paste-up posters (picture via @stephinthenorth).

Norwegian industrial group Kvaerner – which counts construction of offshore oil platforms among its business lines – announced that it would be focusing on its Arctic opportunities in Russia, Canada and Alaska as a way to goose its business back into greater profitability (Reuters).

A high-level official at Swedish bank Nordea announced that pension funds, by investing in future oil and gas projects, are both damaging the environment and taking on an uncalculated risk since “according to climate science, these new fossil fuels should never be used” (EOTA).

Health, Education, Culture & Society

Statistics Canada released its 2011 National Households Survey this week (replacing the mandatory long-form census - Maclean’s), which found that less than two-thirds of Canadian Inuit are able to conduct a conversation in an Inuit language, a five percentage point decrease from 2006 (NN). Another point of interest in the survey’s data was the growing population of self-identified Aboriginals; one observer suggested in the National Post that, as Aboriginal citizens  move to urban areas to look for work, it may pose an integration challenge for Canada.

The loss or disappearance of indigenous languages is a common concern for Arctic states. In Finland (which, by the way, was voted the best country in the world in which to be a mother), YLE Sápmi published its first article in Inari Sámi, a language known to only around 400 people in the world (BO), and in Russia, efforts are being made to get younger generations interested in speaking Vepsian, in the hopes that their parents will also embrace the language (BO).

Nunavik recently reported nine new cases of tuberculosis (NN). Linked to poor and overcrowded housing (NN), poverty, poor diet and smoking, the high incidence of TB among Canada’s Inuit has been a national problem, with Canada’s Public Health Agency estimating in 2010 that infection rates for Inuit were 185 times greater than the national average (CBC). Hepatitis B also has a higher incidence among Inuit in Canada, seven times greater than the rate for non-Aboriginal Canadians, although all children in Canada are now immunized (NN).

Communities across Canada continue to combat mental health challenges. The Embrace Life Council and the Akausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Center held a community feast in Nunavut – where there have been thirteen suicides since January (CBC) - on Friday, and Nunavut family services announced that it would be expanding its services for parents and foster parents (NN). The Iqaluit District Education Authority is also seeking to make suicide prevention courses mandatory for all teachers in Nunavut (NN). The Native Alaska Tribal Health Consortium will partner with Vidyo, Inc. to enhance the way healthcare is provided in rural Canada (ABM), which will hopefully aid in remedying some of these challenges.


In the Northwest Territories, alcohol abuse threatens stability in some communities, despite liquor bans (CBC) and propositions to banish bootleggers (EOTA). / The Quebec Bar Association stressed that the delivery of justice in Nunavik must be improved in order to secure individual rights (NN). / Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho has been awarded Sweden’s Polar Music Prize, winning one million crowns (EOTA). / The Churchill-Hudson Bay diocese will get a new Roman Catholic Bishop, Father Krótki, in an ordination scheduled for the end of the month (NN). / The 1959 Cape Dorset Graphics Collection, which launched the Arctic printmaking movement, went up for auction this week, reports the CBC.


Perhaps the biggest news in northern infrastructure this week was the new northern development plan released by Parti Québécois; it follows/complements/replaces the former Plan Nord (Windsor Star). At the same time, Forum Plan Nord released a report asking the new-ish PQ government to make a greater effort to incorporate input from a broader variety of stakeholders in such development plans (

In Yukon, there’s a disagreement about whether the Whitehorse airport is safe or not, with the opposition charging that someone must do something about inadequate runway length (CBC) while the head of the territorial government’s transport division says the concerns are misplaced (CBC). Further east in Nunavut, the city of Iqaluit is hoping to see a five-year, CAD 3.18 mn plan implemented to improve roads and sidewalks in the city (NN, CBC); they’ve been brutalized by spring runoff this year. For those desperate to escape Iqaluit’s washed-out roads, seasonal flights to Nuuk, Greenland are back (advertisement).

A tangled web of ownership and inherited contracts is gradually lapsing, meaning that Arctic Cooperatives Ltd can begin optimizing the flight routes it uses to deliver goods to outlets in Iqaluit and in the Baffin Region (NN).

The Government of Nunavut feels that existing regulations and incentives have not produced the kind of telecommunications infrastructure that was envisioned for the territory at the hands of Northwestel (NN). Similarly, new FCC (US) rules for reimbursement of telecom infrastructure projects have Alaskans worried that investment in the state’s infrastructure will be strongly disadvantaged now (AD). Alaskans’ complaints are based largely on what is perceived as bad data that fed into the FCC’s calculations; some of the numbers do seem weird, at the very least.

In the Barents Region, the May holidays have seen the largest number of Russia-Norway and Russia-Finland border crossings ever (BO) – a grand total of just under 20,000 (BN).

As the Arctic ministers prepare to meet in Kiruna, spend a moment of your time with the plans to relocate the town’s city center. The competition was won by a coalition of White Architects and Ghilardi + Hellsen Arkitekter (ArchDaily).



This week found the cast and crew of the CTV series “The Amazing Race Canada” in Yellowknife (NNSO).

Three Nunavut towns will be splitting USD $5.2 million to provide upgrades to their ice arenas. Concrete floors and cooling systems mean some of the towns may be able to offer skating year-round, which will be a cause for rejoicing by locals as warming temperatures over the past years have caused some to see only three months of ice time (NN).

Whitehorse residents are trading skis and skates for bikes. Yukon’s largest cycling club, VeloNorth, held its first race of the season on a new course outside of town (YN).


Russia has had a mixed showing at this year’s World Hockey Championship, co-hosted this year by Helsinki and Stockholm. The Russian team eked out a win against the US on Tuesday (RIAN) but suffered an embarrassing loss to France on Thursday and dropped a close match 3-2 against “home team” Finland (RIAN). Sweden didn’t do so well on its home ice in Stockholm, losing 3-2 to Switzerland (IceNews). The gold medal game will be played in Stockholm on 19 May. Check out the International Ice Hockey Federation’s website for news, scores and current rankings.


Alaska is really cashing in on reality shows this year. Joining the Deadliest Catch and Ice Road truckers this year will be Ultimate Survival Alaska, a show which drops rugged Alaskan explorers in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, then gives them 74 hours to find their way out with practically nothing but the shirts on their backs. The show will premier on National Geographic this week (ADN).

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs were bounced out of this year’s North American Hockey League Robertson Cup Tournament after a tough loss to the Wenatchee Wild in Wenatchee, Washington, on Tuesday night (FNM).

Two members of the US Nordic Ski Team, Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, were in Barrow for the inaugural meeting of the Barrow Nordic Ski Club. The event took place in the middle of a late-April blizzard and was attended by over 50 skiers from around Barrow (Arctic Sounder).

Images & Videos

Either I’m falling off my game, or it’s been a slow week for pictures.

Start with the Wall Street Journal’s classic series of beautiful photos from NASA’s most recent Operation IceBridge.

From Instagram, we’ve got pictures of: Tromsø, still light at 00:30 in the morning (@vikingomex); Tromsø slowly melting out of its winter snow blanket (@robert_greiner); and the frozen Lena River (@yakutia).

Pictures of spring and, in particular, Victory Day celebrations in northern Russia came from Barents Observer (spring life in Murmansk), Yakutia Photo (Victory Day celebrations in Yakutsk), and from Barents Nova (two images of Victory Day in Murmansk).

Enjoy further images of a yellow-rumped warbler in Yukon (Flickr / kdee64), a tent set up in a snow-covered Canadian landscape (Flickr / Sophia Granchinho), an inukshuk outside the Canadian Brewhouse in Yellowknife (Twitter / @timquerengesser) and a baby getting very up close and personal with reindeer in Yakutia (Twitter / @yakutia).

And finish off with a 15-minute video of impressions of Greenland from a recent sailing trip (YouTube / Bouke Lolkema).

The Grab Bag

Enjoy an imaginary (or real, if you’re lucky) day in Arkhangelsk thanks to Russia Beyond the Headlines. / A truly amazing diversity of diversions was carried aboard the ships that took an 1875 British expedition into the Canadian Arctic (NN – Taissumani). / Congratulations are due to CBC North for winning the first-ever Canadian Association of Journalists award for a story broadcast in Cree (CBC). / Elizabeth Bradfield captures beautifully what it’s like to stick a toe into a world where humans are not the apex predator (Up Here). / Could a flag help Nunavik develop its own identity (NN)? / The Swedish royal wedding is coming up – get your gossip magazines ready (IceNews). / Tragically, one of northern Russia’s wooden churches – the Pokrov-Vlasy temple – was destroyed by fire last weekend (BN). / The Nunavut Sivuniksavut program brought a group of thirty Inuit students to Brussels this week, where they met with representatives from the International Polar Foundation. / Interested in touring Svalbard? Try starting your trip-planning here. / A Salluit, Quebec couple went missing last weekend, but thankfully were found later in the week (CBC). / A jeep seems to have almost met its maker at the bottom of Yellowknife’s Great Slave Lake this week (CBC). / Art from the Canadian North carries special meaning for many people who have been there (Star Phoenix). / The Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands has its own extensive art collection, which is now viewable online as well. / Drunk driving was a problem in Murmansk over the early May holidays (BN). / As part of Canada’s DOXA film festival, the film “There Will Be Some Who Will Not Fear Even That Void” – which sounds somewhat puzzling – will be showing. / The first weekend of May heralded Easter, or Pascha, for many Orthodox Christians in Russia and elsewhere. President Putin sent his Easter messages to the faithful in Russia, and President Obama sent his greetings to Orthodox in the US and around the world.

Abbreviation Key

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
Aftenbladet (AB)
Alaska Business Monthly (ABM)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Alaska Journal of Commerce (AJC)
Alaska Native News (ANN)
Alaska Public Media (APM)
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)
Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ)
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)
Yukon News (YN)