The Arctic This Week: 17 October - 23 October 2013

courtesy of Lauren Farmer
The Arctic This Week 2013:38

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The Arctic Institute maintains and provides access to a list of Arctic-themed conferences, workshops, and events. You can access the list by clicking on the following link:

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Finding it increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the Arctic related conferences, initiatives and reports? Let us recommend the following pieces from this week for a quick briefing:

Nearly everywhere, the Arctic is now a policy priority. The UK recently released an Arctic policy framework, titled “Adapting To Change: UK policy towards the Arctic.” This new, three-pronged strategy outlines the UK’s Arctic interests and policy for the first time. It’s well worth a read (or a skim, at the very least). Click here for a PDF version of the framework. The Finnish government has prepared an English version of its 2013 Arctic strategy that many of you Arctic-enthusiasts may want to add to your policy arsenal.

For an update on Arctic conferences, we recommend this fascinating blog post “Local vs. Global: Dualism in Arctic Policy Development,” published in Eye on the Arctic. It highlights a very important observation made by Heather Exner-Pirot after attending the Arctic Circle assembly and Canada’s North Summit 2013: Arctic policymakers and stakeholders either think globally or locally, and rarely do both. An op-ed by Carey Restino published in The Arctic Sounder and Alaska Dispatch analyzes Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo’s “grandstanding” at Iceland’s Arctic Circle assembly. While Restino raises mostly familiar points (that Greenpeace’s sensationalist tactics are unhelpful, and its members are disconnected from those they claim to protect) her sharp words and anecdotes form a nicely crafted piece.

In energy, it is our pleasure to highlight a wonderfully researched and presented article by Nadezhda Filimonova in the Arctic Yearbook 2013 on Russia’s push to develop offshore resources in the Arctic. Filimonova reminds us that the development of Russia’s Arctic is driven by political and fiscal necessity as the Western Siberian oil fields that have fueled Russia’s growth for decades are drying up. In the end, Filimonova concludes that Russia may be its own worst enemy as it has, so far, failed to strike a coherent energy development policy or to overcome internal disputes within Russia petroleum-political system. Also, see this article by Henry Gass for E&E Publishing on plans to ship crude oil from Alberta through Manitoba and Hudson Bay.

In science, the yeti of the Himalayas region has been the focus of research for genetics professor Bryan Sykes of Oxford University. Comparing DNA from hair samples, he came to the conclusion that the animal might be a descendant of an ancient polar bear (EOTA).

Turing to business, an article on the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society, the “most northern society-driven greenhouse above the tree line,” tells an inspiring example of successful farming in the Arctic. The community-oriented approach relies on members to share the work and harvest equally. In addition to food supply, collaborating with combined heat and power (CHP) plants could provide further advantages and solve several recurring problems, such as power supply shortage (FP).

On the growing militarization of the Arctic, The Diplomat examines the actors and interests involved, while an op-ed in the Moscow Times offers an interesting, and critical, look at Russia’s militarization in particular. Not only does it say that militarization is a questionable strategy, it suggests that the melting Arctic may be far less lucrative, and far more problematic, for Russia than what is generally believed. However, the director of the Russian Institute of Political and Military Analysis argues that an expanded presence in the region will be valuable as it will improve Russia’s air-defense system (Valdai Club).

To lighten up the mood, check out some very cool designs from the Arctic Adaptations exhibit, which examines potential new housing options for Nunavut. The exhibition will open in Venice, Italy in June and will return to Canada in 2015 (NN).

Meanwhile, the Olympic torch for the Sochi Winter Games has reached the North Pole via the nuclear-powered icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory. The flame was accompanied by some 200 people – half of them the crew of the icebreaker. This marks the flame’s first visit to the North Pole (UPI, AIR, and NBCSports).

And for one of the coolest things you’ll see all week – no pun intended – check out this video from Element Europe’s YouTube account about skateboarding in Spitsbergen.


The Arctic and Beyond

A myriad of Arctic-related conferences took place in the past weeks. In Iceland, the Arctic Circle assembly, Arctic Energy Summit, and Polar Law Symposium took place within the span of one week. Aside from saving some of the attendees from having to double-up on airfare, Mia Bennett argues that the conferences “propel Iceland to the center of Arctic discussions,” reflecting the country’s efforts to position itself as an Arctic “hub” (Foreign Policy Blogs). Bennett also reported on India’s AsiArctic conference (Alaska Dispatch). Victoria Sweet, who attended the Polar Law Symposium and Arctic Circle, said the events acted as a “who’s who” of Arctic affairs (Turtle Talk). Heather Exner-Pirot, who attended Arctic Circle and Canada’s North Summit 2013, observed that Arctic policymakers and stakeholders seem to either think globally or think locally, and rarely combine both perspectives (a syndrome that she maintains “pretty much sums up the state of Arctic policymaking today” - EOTA). One thing that can be said about Arctic Circle, though, is that it stayed true to its promise of inclusivity. Everyone was granted a microphone and a seat at the table, from Iceland’s minister of foreign affairs (you can read his speech on “Iceland’s Role in the Arctic – The Future of Arctic Cooperation” here), to representatives from the tourism industry (Ottawa Citizen), to South Korea, a country that emerged as a prominent Arctic player during the conference according to Greenland’s KNR (in Danish).

The UK released an Arctic policy framework on Thursday. Titled “Adapting To Change: UK policy towards the Arctic,” the three-pronged framework sets out a vision of “respect, leadership and cooperation” in the region’s human, environmental and commercial dimensions (Merco Press). Essentially, the document states the government’s “legitimate interests” and “willingness to show leadership” in the region (in “appropriate areas,” of course).

One way to dovetail British leadership and interests is to use the country’s expertise with offshore oil in its own waters “to become the prime hub for companies exploring for oil and gas in Arctic waters,” writes The Arctic Journal. According to Klaus Dodds (Geopolitics & Security), the references to UK “expertise” are significant, as it acts as a reminder of knowledge and know-how accumulated in the UK’s universities, scientific institutions, and related business sectors. Dear Arctic states, the strategy urges, we want to work with you! The language is very clearly designed to reassure international audience that the UK will respect Arctic coastal states and inhabitants. Environmentalists, however, may be less reassured. WWF issued a statement claiming that the UK government’s policy “could in time be a model for non-Arctic countries to follow,” but nevertheless “exposes the lack of coherence in Whitehall over climate and energy policy.”

On Friday, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo (Global Post). The two representatives agreed that they will cooperate to ensure environmentally responsible development in the region. Minister Tuomioja said he welcomed Japan’s participation in the Arctic Council.

The Nordics

Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced her new government on Wednesday with the selection of Børge Brende as Foreign Minister (BO). Finland’s Labor Minister, Lauri Ihalainen, told YLE News that Finland is lagging behind the other polar states in Arctic exploration, and should “get involved.” Mr. Ihalainen added that active Finnish operations in the Arctic would provide many new jobs for Finns.

Aili Keskitalo will return to the presidency of Norway’s Sámi Parliament (BO). Keskitalo, the first female president of the parliament, previously held the role from 2005-2007.


Whitehorse, Yukon is hosting the Arctic Council’s first Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting of the Canadian chairmanship on October 21-23. Delivering remarks at the meeting will be Minister Leona Aglukkaq (Gov’t of Canada), who recently clarified her position on climate change in describing herself as “a very strong advocate for taking actions against climate change” (NN). The minister’s appearance on CTV’s “Power Play” earlier this month led many observers to believe she thought the science behind climate change was “debatable” (

Both climate change and Canada’s Arctic Council chairmanship were unmentioned in the Conservative government’s Speech from the Throne this month, as Nunatsiaq News was quick to point out. The paper suggested that the speech, although full of “old promises,” lacked “new commitments for Nunavut and the rest of the Canadian Arctic.” Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington called the speech short on substance and “a non-event,” praising only the government’s commitment to investigate missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada (HQ Yellowknife). The speech also promised the government would work with “renewed determination and an expanded team” to search for Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition (The Wall Street Journal). Defense Minister Rob Nicholson, who switched positions from Justice to Defense in July, said he was pleased with the speech. He also stated that he is enjoying the “different challenge” of his new post (Niagara Falls Review).

In local elections news, campaign officials are targeting voter apathy in Wood Buffalo, Alberta (NJ), where two open councilor positions are currently up for grabs (NJ), and the current mayor Melissa Blake faces two challengers (NJ). Run Gloria Run! posted a blog on the ins-and-outs of small town politics this week in highlighting Nunavut’s fourth territorial election.

United States

Fairbanks’ mayor-elect John Eberhart (FNM) and North Star Borough Assembly members Diane Hutchison, Karl Kassel and newcomer Janice Golub (FNM) are scheduled to be sworn in this week. Another politician, North Slope’s mayor Charlotte Brower, is featured in a two-part series from Alaska Dispatch where she addresses the state of the borough “as seen from its top office.” The article focuses on the changes taking place in the region and the importance of ocean safety. In campaign news, Alaska Democrats officially endorsed Byron Mallott’s gubernatorial run (AD) while another Alaska Democrat, US Senator Mark Begich, brought in USD 810,000 for his re-election bid in the last quarter, which brings his fundraising this election cycle up to USD 4.8 million (FNM).

Concerning political commentary, Dermont Cole accused Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell’s administration of over-spending on the investigation into the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force’s “Chicken Raids” (AD). Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson continued to push for greater US engagement in the Arctic and addressed the implications of sea ice melt at the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa (Des Moines Register). President Grímsson said that crops, infrastructure, borders and coastal cities in the lower forty-eight could be affected by melting Arctic icecaps.


Russia hosted the General Assembly of the Northern Forum at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Sakha in Moscow October 16-18 (AIR, in Russian). High agenda items at the meeting included Arctic cooperation, energy sector growth, conservation and the use of the Northern Sea Route.

Vyacheslav Shtyrov, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, met with regional development minister Igor Slyunyayev to discuss the legal definition of Russia’s Arctic (AIR, in Russian). Shtyrov argued that Russia’s “Arctic zone” should include the eight northern districts of Yakutia, which are located above the Arctic Circle but have no Arctic coastline.

Murmansk city mayor Aleksey Veller has come under fire for his alleged participation in organized crime (BO). Veller denied the accusations and has said he will sue his accuser, Sergey Gabrielyan, for libel. Gabrielyan has since fled Murmansk.

A survey conducted earlier this month by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) found that sixty-nine percent of Russians believe that Arctic territories (presumably the Arctic Ocean, although this is not specified) should remain outside the boundaries of Arctic coastal states (RIAN). Opinions were split on resource extraction, with forty-five percent in favor of drilling and extracting natural resources from the Arctic and forty-two percent finding it “inadmissible.”


Onlookers continued to urge the release of the “Arctic 30” who have now been detained for over a month in Murmansk, Russia. Angela Merkel apparently telephoned President Vladimir Putin, voicing concerns over the arrests (The Guardian); Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja advised Finnish politicians to exert pressure on Russia to release the activists (EOTA); and eleven Nobel Peace Prize Laureates wrote to Mr. Putin  imploring the president to “do all you can do” to ensure all piracy charges are dropped (RIAN, Marine Link, The Moscow Times and Kommersant, in Russian). Greenpeace continued to protest the arrests, sailing up to a Gazprom-sponsored yacht at a regatta in Trieste, Italy and unveiling a banner reading “Get Out of the Arctic #FreeTheArctic30” (Afloat) to rally against the “30 days of injustice” for the thirty detainees ( Moscow Times author John Lough has called the whole situation a “public relations nightmare” for Russia in the North.

The night before the “30 days of injustice” demonstrations, a group of masked men broke into Greenpeace’s office in Murmansk, stealing a mock cage that was to be used for the demonstration (The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post). Greenpeace’s Yevgenia Belyakova told reporters that the organization intends to move forward with its Arctic program “irrespective of the events in the courts of the Murmansk region” (VOR), and Ben Ayliffe, advocating for the “Arctic 30” from Greenpeace headquarters in the United Kingdom, told Deutsche Welle, “we will not be intimidated…We are going to keep protesting.” Ironically, Arctic-Info (in Russian) reported this week that Murmansk is a possible location for next year’s fourth “The Arctic – Territory of Dialogue” forum.


There’s a growing movement in some sectors of the business community to demand ecologically sourced, Arctic-free oil. For the time being it seems confined to environmental commerce circles (see, for instance, this article from, but if major entities like airline or transportation companies take up the cause, it could change the calculus of oil companies contemplating Arctic development. The oil industry, meanwhile, has made great efforts to promote its ability to operate in the Arctic while avoiding, preferably, or being able to manage any oil spills. The Joint Industry Program, funded by BP, ConocoPhillips, ENI, NCOC, Shell, Statoil and Total, announced this week that current technology is sufficient for Arctic operations (AB).

A Greenpeace protest in Zurich this week featured a street-side ballet performance during which a white-clad dancer was smeared with a sugary substance resembling oil. You can see the video here.

Echoing last week’s release of the UK’s nuanced Arctic policy statement is this article in the Guardian that looks at how the UK is positioning itself as a hub of expertise and business services to support Arctic oil explorations.


Norway’s new coalition government is considering broad changes in the country’s sovereign wealth fund to prioritize investments in sustainable development and renewable energy, a move which comes as a surprise to some people due to the dominant position of the new Conservative Party (AJ). Some Norwegians, however, are still very dependent on the most polluting of fossil fuels. The Norwegian government has agreed to continue subsidizing the coal plant on Svalbard (the only coal fired plant in all of Norway) for another year as it tries to figure out what to do with the aging facility (BO).

Norway’s new government has also decided to put off oil and gas licensing around the remote Jan Mayen Island. However, funding for seismic exploration work in the region will continue to the tune of USD 21.6 million in 2014 (Upstream).

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute expressed concern this week that an oil spill at one of Statoil’s wells in the Barents Sea Hoop prospect could lead to oil ending up in the Lofoten Islands because of prevailing ocean currents (AB).

While you might be hard pressed to find Tesla enthusiasts at the company’s home base in the U.S., the electric car manufacturer has devoted followers in Norway. Telsa’s ‘S model’ was the best-selling vehicle in Norway last month (BO).


The Fairbanks Assembly approved a draft resolution prioritizing funding to improve natural gas distribution and a loan program to help residents convert their homes to natural gas heating (FNM). A new program to truck LNG from the North Slope to Fairbanks will begin in 2015, and the city is now focusing on improving its gas distribution system. Two entities – Fairbanks Natural Gas and the Interior Gas Utility – are angling for the right to build and manage the expanded gas system. Governor Sean Parnell stepped into the fray this week and urged the two parties to settle their dispute so that the city can work on the necessary infrastructure to meet the 2015 deadline (FNM).

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center is testing the applicability of passive solar heating at its main facility in Fairbanks (FNM).

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work on the North Slope in January, see this entertaining article and photo gallery by Oilpro’s Darren Johnson. According to Johnson, “there is no such thing as a tourist on the North Slope in January,” and after reading about the conditions there, I understand why!


The Northern Journal reports on former Mikisew Cree First Nation chief George Poitras’ recent trip to meet with EU officials and encourage them to label oil sands crude as more harmful to the environment than other fossil fuels (NJ). Back in Alberta, oil sands activities in the northeastern Peace River region are under investigation by provincial regulators after numerous complaints from local residents regarding how oil sands emission and odors are leading to illnesses in local communities (NJ).

An excellent article by Henry Gass for E&E Publishing looks at a proposal by Denver-based OmniTRAX Inc. to ship crude from North Dakota and Alberta to Churchill, Manitoba, on the Hudson Bay by rail. Gass looks at some of the technical limitations to the idea, including the fact that the rail line to Churchill may not be able to manage that much traffic and the port itself may not be ready for such large shipments of oil.

The Mackenzie Valley gas project, formerly written off by the flood of cheap shale gas in North America, is being reimagined as an LNG project for export. Yet it’s unclear if the project will still require a pipeline to get the gas to an ice-free port in Western Canada (Globe and Mail).


An article by Zahra Hirji for InsideClimate News makes the case that the furor over Greenpeace’s “Arctic 30” may be overshadowing the ongoing damage being done by oil spills in Russia’s Arctic. Ubiquitous coverage of the fate of the Arctic 30 could be diverting attention from the horrible environmental record of the Russian oil sector which, according to Greenpeace, spills up to 30 million barrels of oil each year ( An oil spill at the Kharyaga project in Nenets last week led to a fire which was, thankfully, quickly extinguished (AIR, Russian). The spill is apparently the third at this facility in a year (BO). A similar fire in the same region in August raged for 8 days. The company responsible for that fire, Arcticgas, received a whopping USD 6000 fine (RIAN). As development increases across the Russian Arctic, a group of environmental organizations are demanding that safe drilling technologies be tested and applied before additional development is undertaken (Bellona). It doesn’t appear, however, that the Kremlin will be taking its foot off the gas anytime soon. A draft of a development program, which calls for USD 63 billion to support Arctic development through 2020, is making its way through Putin’s cabinet (RT). Local and regional authorities across Russia’s north, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the frequent oil spills and are looking for ways to press charges against companies that fail to report oil leaks to proper authorities (BO).

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin stated that his company will need 15 drilling rigs and 20 seismic vessels to drill over 4000 wells to fully develop the Prinovozemelsky fields in the Kara Sea (AIR, Russian).

Gazprom has reduced the anticipated growth rate for gas production at the Bovanenkovskoye field in the Yamal Peninsula in response to declining domestic demand for gas. The company is also delaying some pipeline constructions in response to the new market forecasts (AIR, Russian). Demand is also dropping in Europe, where Gazprom’s gas exports declined by 3.5% last year (BO). While the market for Gazprom’s pipeline gas is faltering, Moscow is pushing through more tax relief to help incentivize LNG production in the same region for export to Asia (Upstream). Meanwhile, Gazprom is preparing to launch production at the nearby northeast Urengoy gas field in spite of the downgraded production at Bovanenkovskoye (AIR, Russian). Gazprom and Novatek have been funding the cleanup of tons of industrial waste on the White Island in the Kara Sea and have donated all the money from the recycled metals to a children’s charity (AIR, Russian).

A nuclear waste containment facility on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, funded by international donors, is nearing completion. The site is designed to store the nuclear flotsam and jetsam leftover from the Cold War activities in the region, including up to 130 nuclear reactors from decommissioned subs and ships (BO).

A fiscal crisis at the city of Arkhangelsk on Russia’s White Sea led a Gazprom subsidiary to cut off gas supplies to the city earlier this month over RUB 16 billion in unpaid bills. Negotiations have reopened the gas spigots, though the city remains in a perilous fiscal state (BO).

An environmental group reports that Shell has pulled out of a joint project with Gazprom to drill off of Sakhalin Island near Russia’s northeast coast; yet there doesn’t appear to be any confirmation from Shell or Gazprom on this development (AD).

Shell’s head of Russia operations Olivier Lazare is interviewed in (in Russian), discussing Greenpeace, the Sakhalin project, and Russian oil shale.


Let’s start with some rather funny – if not taken seriously – comments found in the science news this week. The Polish hosts of next month’s UN climate talks wrote that “Arctic melt means more pirate chases” and that “terrorists and ecologists...will come to hang around” in the melting Arctic (EOTA). Meanwhile John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel, clears all doubts about the need for environmental protection in the Arctic by stating that polar bears are not endangered because “Eskimos … have now become more civilized” (Salon). Simply incredible.


Svalbard, located north of Norway, has become the most popular destination for scientists studying climate change, as the islands are situated in an area that first experiences climate change (AJ). A study published in Nature Geoscience (see abstract) confirms the relevance of Arctic climate change beyond the region and shows that ocean currents originating in the Arctic influence the rainfall in the tropics (SCCV). Yereth Rosen in the meantime writes about the record low polar ice cap in 2012 before its slight recovery this year (AD).
Despite focusing on the consequences for research from Antarctic bases, Tim McDonnell illustrates the dramatic and long-lasting consequences of the U.S. government shutdown on climate research. In an interview, Gretchen Hofmann, a marine biologist at the University of California, gives details on how research has been affected (MJ).

Canada might be the largest single beneficiary of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, negotiated two weeks ago in Japan under the United Nations Environment Programme. Ninety-five percent of mercury and its related compounds deposited in Canada, mostly in its Arctic region, come from foreign sources (HazMat). An example of the impacts is the increase of mercury in the eggs of terns and gulls in Alberta (NJ).


The Arctic Council’s Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Plan is out (CAFF). In addition, the report Life Linked to Ice: A guide to sea-ice-associated biodiversity in this time of rapid change will be released on October 23 (Eamer). These assessments of the current state of Arctic biodiversity are crucial for the warming Arctic with implications for policy makers (EOTA).

On a hunting trip, Joe Juralak discovered a “strange creature” near Iqaluit, Canada, which was eventually identified as an octopus. Octopuses are more common in the Arctic than their sightings suggest. Around Baffin Island and Greenland, there are about five known species. Unfortunately, little research has been done on the Arctic species (NN). Another mysterious creature, the yeti of the Himalayas region, has been the focus of the research of Oxford University’s genetics professor Bryan Sykes. Comparing DNA from hair samples, he concludes that the animal might be a descendant of an ancient polar bear (EOTA).

Due to the dramatic decline of the moose population across North America, wildlife officials in Minnesota have suspended moose hunting. Although many factors contribute to the high mortality rate, several of them point to the warming climate (NYT). In Russia’s Murmansk region, the decline of the western population of wild reindeer, now numbering less than 800, also raises concerns (AIR, in Russian).

Off Canada’s eastern coast, Peter Ewins tracked a pod of killer whales on their journey south. Although the last transmitter has stopped working, the data collected shows that the animals have covered a distance of at least 4,000 km (2485 miles) in the past two months (WWF).

General science news

Peter Dawson at the University of Calgary explores a way to make Arctic sites accessible to scientists, who do not have the opportunity to travel there. The computer images resulting from his 3D imagery project enable a detailed representation of Fort Conger on Ellesmere Island, Canada, which has served as a base for several Arctic pioneers (AD).



Russian army’s Special Forces units recently completed their first (known) exercises simulating warfare in the Arctic on Russia’s Kola Peninsula. The exercises included everything from basic survival techniques to sniper duels in an Arctic setting (RIAN). A fourth-generation diesel-electric submarine has also arrived in the region. The Sankt Petersburg, the lead ship in the Project 677 Lada-class subs, will begin sea trials with the Northern Fleet (RIAN).

An official Russian military delegation visited Norway last week to discuss the next year’s Northern Eagle exercise (BO). During its summer military exercises this year, Russia launched seven cruise missiles from the Rybachi Peninsula near the Norwegian border. The Russian state media claim all seven hit their targets in the Barents Sea (BO).

Russian officials have met to discuss safety and emergency response situations for the largest industrial project on the Yamal Peninsula (AIR). Finally, an operation has rescued about 90 workers from the Indigirka River after their ship was damaged by ice (AIR).

United States

A single-engine plane carrying three people crashed en route from Fairbanks to North Pole. The pilot, a Fairbanks dentist, was killed, while the two passengers sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The cause of the crash is not yet known (FNM).

Air force officials have stated that a plan to base a squadron of F-35Bs in Japan will not affect the likelihood of Eielson AFB basing a squadron of F-35s (FNM).



The growing pains continue in Greenland as the country struggles to rethink its policy toward uranium mining. With Greenland’s parliament set to vote on overturning its ban on uranium mining, interested parties in Greenland and abroad are parsing Prime Minster Aleqa Hammond’s comment at the Arctic Circle that Greenland “will” overturn the ban. Was Hammond trying to subvert the democratic process, or was something lost in translation (AJ)? For Member of Parliament Sara Olsvig, the current government’s push to lift the uranium ban has bordered on the undemocratic. She called for the review process to begin anew and for more public input to be incorporated into the process (AJ). Greenlandic unions are expressing concerns about other proposed mining law revisions that would ease regulations on mining companies and, according to unions, lead to a flood of foreign workers (AJ). Sidsel Overgaard provides some good background on the issue of uranium mining in this article (and audio file) for National Public Radio.


There was mixed news this week from Chukotka’s mining industry. Gold mining yields in the northwestern region of Russia increased by 19% this year, while silver production has declined by 16% (AIR, Russian). Officials in the autonomous government of Chukotka are planning to invest to expand the region’s coal mining industry, which includes the construction of a deep water coal terminal on the Bering Sea (AIR, Russian).

A poll of Muscovites provided some interesting findings on opinions about resource exploitation in the Arctic. Forty-five percent of respondents think that minerals in the Arctic should be mined while only 1% reported knowing about Greenpeace’s campaign in the Russian Arctic (AIR, Russian).


This week, Finnish organization Snowchange Cooperative celebrated the news that Euro Scandinavian Uranium has withdrawn its plans to mine uranium in the Pielisjoki watershed in northeast Finland (Press Release).


With all the excitement about cargo ships transiting the Northwest Passage, you would expect that a CEO of large company planning a major mining project on the Passage’s shores would be excited about the prospects. Not in the case of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. CEO Tom Paddon thinks the NWP will not be a transit route of any great significance due to vessel size limitations (Globe and Mail).

According to the Conference Board of Canada, mining in the North will suffer through weak commodity prices in the near future and create a drag on northern economies. Long term prospects are good with several major mining projects in development and demand for minerals expected to increase, which is driving up prices (EOTA).


An interesting article from Barents Observer’s Anja Kristine Salo profiles the work of the Árran Lule Sámi Center in northern Norway that aims to decrease conflict and promote understanding regarding resource development between governments, indigenous peoples and industry (BO).


Fishing and farming

After the end of the U.S. government shutdown, which had rendered the issuing of fishing permits impossible, Alaska's red king crab fishery can finally get back to work (NM). Icelandic fishers are also busy with crab fishing. Off Iceland’s west coast, the number of Atlantic rock crabs has increased over the past few years. However, funding for processing is needed to make rock crab fishing a profitable industry in Iceland (Iceland Review). In Russia, the amendment of law on fish processing this July enabled fishermen to do the primary processing onboard. Now Murmansk fish processing companies worry about losing their suppliers (BN). In contrast, a fish processing cluster will be established in the Nenets Autonomous District, a few hundred kilometers east of Murmansk (RIA, in Russian).

An agreement between Russia and Norway, a result of lower cod and haddock quotas for the Barents Sea in 2014, is likely to lead to higher prices (Fish Update).

Further south, the Atlantic cod moves north. Large populations were found off the shores of Spitsbergen, Svalbard, in an area formerly inhabited by Arctic cod. It remains to be seen which species will better adapt to the icy Arctic waters and win the competition for resources (EOTA).

The Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society, the “most northern society-driven greenhouse above the tree line,” is an inspiring example of successful farming in the Arctic. The community-oriented approach relies on members to share equally in the work and the harvest. In addition to food supply, collaborating with combined heat and power (CHP) plants could provide further advantages and solve several recurring problems, such as power supply (FP). Bryce Wrigley provides more details on the context and the opportunities for farming in the Arctic (Modern Farmer).


A recent study by Scott et al. aims to “quantify the length and variability of the NSR navigation season” and indicates that the Russian part of the Northern Sea Route will be “among the first marine environments to transition to a summer ice-free state” (Polar Geography).

Port News interviewed IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu on his views about the development of the NSR, safety concerns and the Polar Code, whose adoption is expected in 2016 or early 2017. You can read the transcription of the full interview here (Port News). In line with Sekimizu’s statements, two articles investigate the NSR’s potential and emphasize safety and insurance issues (Reuters, Arctic Journal). This is echoed by Morten Mejlænder-Larsen, who further points to the need for proper equipment, “(t)rained crew, operational procedures, good ice information, etc.” (S4S). Scientists’ ability to predict when the sea will freeze up, which in certain areas is a matter of only a few hours, also contributes to navigation safety (Chronicle Herald).

Because of an ‘emergency situation’, Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise has been towed from the Kulonga Bay to the Murmansk commercial seaport by the Russian FSB border directorate for the Murmansk region on October 15 (RBTH). Meanwhile, Sweden’s Stena Polaris is approaching the port of Yosu, South Korea, making a voyage of 8,400 nautical miles (ME).

The Finnish Transport minister Merja Kyllönen suggested an independent audit of the state-owned ice breaker company Arctia shipping. The proposal has been well received by the company, which asserts that keeping oil drilling platforms ice-free in the summer is very profitable (YLE).

General business and economic news

With the increasing relevance of the Arctic region for businesses worldwide, the importance and prominence of the Arctic Council has also grown (G&M). In this context, Mary Simon, Canada’s first ambassador for circumpolar affairs, states the need for the Arctic Council’s future circumpolar business forum to build more viable Inuit communities, for example through improving education (NN).

In Canada, an article in the Northern Journal explores the Business Incentive Policy (BIP) of Canada’s NWT government, an initiative supporting northern entrepreneurs. Despite some success, the BIP’s shortcomings have to be taken seriously, as they drastically reduce its effectiveness (NJ). In Norway, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just released “Team Norway,” a program to facilitate Norwegian businesses’ international expansion and coordinate all the actors and organizations promoting Norwegian corporations abroad (BO).

Russia’s State Duma is currently drafting a law that will forbid foreigners to own land or buildings in Russia. It’s already the case in the country’s border zone areas. The new law, which aims at preventing foreign ghettoes, could come into force as early as 2015 (BO).



The issue of food security dominated health-related news this week. CBC News did a feature on the high costs of food in the Canadian North. The residents of Hay River, Northwest Territories marched against Monsanto for International Food Day (CBC), and Alaska Dispatch reported on the “Fuzzy Math of Alaska Subsistence.”


Education is a top priority in Nunavut’s upcoming elections, with candidates urging that children must be challenged in schools, criticizing practices of inaccurate grading and “social promotion,” and suggesting that students should be held “to the same standard that’s being taught down South” (CBC). Educators in Northland, Alberta are similarly unhappy with student success, doubting that much progress has been made despite some progress on Alberta’s achievement tests (NJ). In the Northwest Territories, adult competencies also received criticism. New research released from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) ranked competencies in the Northwest Territories near the bottom of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories, most likely as a result of high dropout rates, according to The Northern Journal. In Fairbanks’ North Star Borough, Assembly Member Diane Hutchison said this week that she would consider filing a lawsuit against the state for requiring boroughs to pay an “unfair” local contribution to schools (FNM).

On a more positive note, soon-to-be teachers from Aurora College traveled to Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park as part of the annual fall Teacher Education Program culture camp (NJ). Alaska Panhandle students apparently “dominated” (AD) at the recent Arctic Innovation Competition, organized by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Management (FDN).


The winners of April’s “Whales, Trails and Polar Bear Tales” contest travelled to Churchill, Manitoba this August (YouTube), while participants in the television series “The Amazing Race” traveled to Norway’s Arctic as part of the series’ twenty-third season (Dryed In Canada, young people from the Northwest Territories returned home after traveling to Victoria, British Columbia for this month’s PowerShift conference (NJ). Northwest Territories’ ministers promised to offer money management support for the territory’s seniors (NJ), and CBC news questioned if decentralization is working for Eastern Arctic Communities. In Alaska, the Alaska Victimization Survey is bringing the prevalence of violence against women in Alaska to light (AD), while in Russia, the Nenets Oil Company is financing a number of social projects in Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The Arctic Media Forum opened in Arkhangelsk on Monday (AIR, in Russian).


This week’s cultural news featured stories on “rising indigenous pop star” Kelly Fraser (Rising Voices), visual artist and aspiring video game designer Jean Ryan Escalante (NJ), the youth delegate program portion of Yellowknife’s seventh annual International Film Festival (NJ), and a series of free, four-day singing, writing and poetry workshops held for young people in the Northwest Territories (NJ). In Nunavut’s Gjoa Haven, the Nattilik Heritage Centre, which houses the Inuit artifacts recently returned to the area after being housed in Norway’s Museum of Cultural History for the last century, officially opened (EOTA).



The Ministry of Regional Development will submit plans for “Social and economic development of the Arctic zone of Russia for the period up to 2020” by the beginning of November. Funding for the program is expected to be roughly 2 trillion rubles; the plan will work to upgrade infrastructure and foster economic growth (AIR).

In Russian regional news, the Russian Emergencies Ministry has organized a working group to examine the reconstruction of an Arctic airport in the Vologda region (AIR). In Yakutia, plans are underway to utilize new technology to lay winter roads, with hopes to have them open in December (AIR). The Nenets Autonomous District has approved a list of investments, including the construction of a road from Naryan-Mar to Usinsk (AIR).

In Sabetta-related-news, Lenmorniiproekt was given approval by Russia’s State Expert Evaluation Department to begin designing documentation and coming up with cost estimates (Port News). A Belgian contractor has completed the pre-dredging for the port (BN).

The “Russian Arctic” National Park has announced that it will hold an open competition for a contract of 1.38 billion rubles to clean up some 16,000 tons of industrial waste on Franz Josef Land (AIR).


Norway will build its first new airport in 40 years – the Arctic Ocean Airport in the country’s northern Helgeland region; the airport will be highlighted by an innovative architectural design, and feature impressive views (Dotw News).

Local police in Kirkenes have stated that more funding is needed to patrol the increasingly-busy Storskog border crossing, with crossings up by 4,000 from last year (BO).


In Iqaluit, upcoming elections are highlighting the need for expanded marine infrastructure (NN).


United States

Fairbanks continues to gear up for the Arctic Winter Games, and officials are impressed with the city’s preparation. The 2014 games are expected to feature about 2,500 athletes from nine circumpolar delegations competing in 20 sports (FNM).


Greenland is hoping to rebrand itself as the go-to location for adventure travel, focusing on what it calls the “Big Arctic Five”: dog sledding, the Northern Lights, whale watching, traversing Greenlandic ice and snow, and meeting the locals (AJ).

Kirkenes recently hosted the October Championship – a Barents Region-wide youth wresting competition. Competitors travelled from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia (BO).


This week’s flickr haul includes a solemn shot of Kitiktayuaq Cemetery and a black-and-white, snowy street taken by Paul Aningat, “Fish Cooks” by Paul Vecsei, and a stunning, other-worldly reflection by Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson. Shots by Clare Kines – “Ice Blue,” “Her Dark Eyes,” “End Game” and “Soul’s Rhythm” round out the haul.

On Twitter, we have a white rainbow from Google Earth Pics, a fisherman's sky from J.G.D., “resplendent” Tuktoyaktuk from Philippe Morin shot by Mayor Merven Gruben, and three shots (of an Arctic swimmer, the great outdoors, and a jumping explorer) from Explorer Kenya. Polar photographer Corey Arnold (Instagram @arni_coraldo) is currently featured on The Instagram Blog, and instagram users posted fall leaves, Sweden’s Stora National Park, a foggy night in North Slope, Alaska, and ice in Svalbard.

Other shots this week include a reindeer with icy antlers from National Geographic, a polar bear fight in Alaska shot by Matthew Studebaker, and a nice cityscape posted on by SAOChair. This week’s galleries and collections include multiple icy galleries by Vladimir Donkov on his site “Vertical Shot,” and “Highlights of My Arctic Expedition” posted by Nellie Huang on The Looptail.

Also of interest is this hand-drawn Arctic map posted on Pinterest as well as two videos: Episode 3 of the Dark Ice Project (titled “The Snow Storm”) on YouTube and a video on Vimeo of scenes from an Arctic Nature Guide Class.


Fairbanks, Alaska, fell just one degree Fahrenheit short of breaking an all-time record high temperature for the date of 20 October when the mercury peaked at a balmy 57 degrees Sunday afternoon (FNM). A vineyard in Altai region of Siberia that began in 2009 with 600 vine cuttings from a French vineyard will be producing its first Pinot Noir this year (ST). The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators has developed environmental and safety regulations to guide the fast-growing industry. You can read the guidelines on the Association’s website.

Staff of The Arctic This Week

Managing Editor: Kevin Casey
Design and Layout: Maura Farrell
Copy Editor: Kyaelim Kwon

Energy, Mining and Grab Bag: Kevin Casey
Politics; Health, Education, Society and Culture; and Images/Videos: Maura Farrell
Science, Environment and Wildlife; Fisheries, Shipping and other Business: Doris Friedrich
Military/SAR, Infrastructure, and Sports: Seth Myers

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)
Arctic Info (Russian) (AIR)
Arctic Institute (TAI)
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 Daily News-Miner (FNM)
Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Government of Canada (GOC)
Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT)
Huffington Post (HP)
Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN)
Johnson’s Russia List (JRL)
Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa (KNR)
Lapin Kansa (LK)
Moscow Times (MT)
National Geographic (NG)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
Naval Today (NT)
New York Times (NYT)
Northern Journal (NJ)
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)