The Arctic This Week: 30 December to 6 January

By Kevin CaseyMaura Farrell, and Seth Myers 
Courtesy of  greeland_com on flickr
The Arctic This Week 2014:1

Welcome to the first TATW of 2014 and thanks for joining us this week! We sincerely hope that each of you had a relaxing and fulfilling holiday season. If you find TATW useful and fun to read, please share it with others. If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can sign up here. The PDF version can be found here.

As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own. To comment, to point out an error or to request a back issue, feel free to contact us directly. Anything that we missed? Please feel free to share material with us if you think it deserves inclusion in TATW.


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:

Please help us keep this list up to date! If you would like to add an event to the list, please submit the required information including the event’s name, dates, location, description, website address and contact information using this submission form. The list will be updated weekly and a link to the list will be provided each week in TATW.


The Arctic Institute is a partner for the upcoming conference Arctic Frontiers: Humans in The Arctic which will be held 19-24 January in Tromsø, Norway. Several members of TAI’s staff will be on hand at the conference, so if you are attending, look for us there! If you would like to attend but have not yet registered, you may do so here.

TAI Executive Director Malte Humpert’s recent report The Future of Arctic Shipping – A New Silk Road for China? made the Council on Foreign Relations’ list of must reads for 2013. Humpert’s report appeared alongside works from The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and the New York Review of Books. Congratulations, Malte, on this fantastic achievement! Humpert was also quoted in the article “Nations jockey for Arctic position, US not in lead” by Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press. Humpert and TAI’s Europe Director Kathrin Keil were also quoted in the article “A reality check on the Northwest Passage ‘boom’” by Paul Waldie for The Globe and Mail.


To begin, see this story by Deb Riechmann – “Nations jockey for Arctic position, U.S. not in lead” (Associated Press) – that was picked up by the The Washington Post and several other media outlets this week. The story summarizes recent developments in Arctic politics and reminds readers that although several U.S. governmental agencies have formulated Arctic agendas, finding the money to implement these strategies is “a tougher sell.”

In energy reads, this interesting article dishes the dirt on a fuel shortage in Nome Alaska that led to USD 1.5 million, icebreaker-assisted, emergency fuel delivery to the remote village in January, 2012. The story’s details remind us of the difficulties of keeping remote Arctic settlements like Nome provisioned with fuels and the many things that can go wrong in the process (EOTA).

Alaska Public Media conducted a fascinating and expansive interview with Lt. Gen. Russell J. Handy, Commander, Alaskan Command, U.S. Pacific Command; Commander, Eleventh Air Force, Pacific Air Forces; and Commander, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardsonon. Lt. Gen. Russell J. Handy is the senior military commander in the state of Alaska and discusses the Pentagon’s recently-released Arctic strategy and a broad range of issues relating to the U.S.’s military posture in the Arctic. Check out Part I here and Part II here.

Next, we would like to suggest two good reads that examine the challenges and opportunities of infrastructural expansion in an increasingly busy Alaskan Arctic. The Alaska Journal of Commerce examines some of the challenges to securing funding for infrastructure projects in the state, while the AP reports on ongoing work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare recommendations for building port facilities along the Bering Strait in western Alaska to service ships headed to the Arctic (ADN).

Finally, see this detailed article from the Canadian Mining Journal that explores several new mines in development in Canada’s Arctic. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut have only five producing mines between them, but three more could open within the next several years as the accessibility of the region’s resources increases due to a warming Arctic.


U.S. Arctic presence questioned

An Associated Press story by Deb Riechmann made the rounds this week, appearing in The Washington Post and several other national and local media outlets this week. The story, although it begins by repeating familiar Arctic resource estimates and Senator Murkowski's calls for an increased U.S. Arctic presence (The Hill), captures the Arctic political landscape rather well. Riechmann makes the important point that although several government agencies have formulated Arctic agendas, finding the money to implement these strategies is “a tougher sell.” A shorter version of her story also appeared in question-and-answer format in The Huffington Post.

A look back at 2013

Succumbing to our collective impulse to summarize and make sense of the past year, Eye on the Arctic, Foreign Policy, and even we at The Arctic Institute put out year in review-type stories. These are worth a peruse, as is Lesley Price’s end-of-year story, which looks at Aleqa Hammond, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Queen Margrethe, and Stephen Harper’s year-end addresses and their references to the Arctic (AJ).

North Pole “battle” continues to make headlines

First on Foreign Policy’s “Stories You Missed in 2013” is “Russia and Canada Duke it Out over the North Pole.” Recently, new stories on the alleged “battle” appeared in Maclean’s, Alaska Dispatch/Foreign Policy Blogs, and OZY. While many of you may have already relegated this development to the “old news” category (perhaps rightly so), keep in mind that some are still buzzing over the two countries competing claims.


Paul Ruzycki, one of the “Arctic 30” granted amnesty last month by President Putin, discussed the “insulting” piracy charges against him in an interview with CBC News. Greenpeace, according to Poland program director Robert Tsygelsky, has no plans to sail Russian coastal waters in 2014 (War and Peace).

United States
Climate change debate to dominate White House agenda in 2014 (The Hill).

Former Greenlandic premier Hans Enoksen has left Greenland’s ruling Siumut party and now considers himself “a member of the opposition,” according to The Arctic Journal.


Gambling on Greenland

Greenland’s Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum awarded licenses for oil and gas exploration in the Greenland Sea to three consortia (Government of Greenland). Statoil won one license with ConocoPhillips and Nunaoil (OilPrice) while Japanese JX Nippon won two licenses in partnership with Chevron (Your Oil and Gas News). BP and partners ENI and Dong Energy won the final license, drawing some criticism from environmental groups citing the company’s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 (Guardian). While these are the first exploration and exploitation licenses for eastern Greenland, a number of companies have been exploring in western Greenland for some time. Cairn Energy has sunk over USD 1 billion in its search for oil off Greenland with little success, though this article in the Arctic Journal shows that the company is still optimistic about its gamble on Greenland.

Russia Roars into the New Year

Russia had a busy 2013 in the Arctic: new licenses were granted for oil and gas exploitation in more than 30 offshore sites totaling more than one million km2 (AIR, in Russian). Gazprom also made history by bringing on-line the first producing well in the Russian Arctic at the Prirazlomnoe oil field in the Pechora Sea (Press Release). Never mind that the project was two years behind schedule and Gazprom has also been running behind schedule on two of its other Arctic projects (BO). 2014 promises to be a busy year as well. Statoil and ExxonMobil are gearing up to drill in the Kara Sea with Rosneft this summer (BO). Logistics for the project will be daunting with workers transported by ship to the drill site every three weeks from Murmansk, over 2000 km away. This will be the first Arctic well for ExxonMobil in Russia after the company signed a partnership agreement with Rosneft in 2011 (Bloomberg). The Russian state subsurface regulator Rosnedra, meanwhile, announced it will be paying for an oil and gas assessment of the Arctic seabed beyond Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone as the country will seek to extend its territorial claims to the region in the coming years (JRL).

Shell retools, refits, and readies for return

A year after Shell’s drill rig Kulluk ran aground off Kodiak, Alaska, the company is formulating its plan to return to the Chukchi Sea in 2014. Shell has scrapped the Kulluk, acquired use of the Polar Pioneer as a back-up rig, and will forfeit the Beaufort Sea for the time being to focus on its Chukchi leases (KUOW). While Shell’s Alaska campaign has been plagued by difficulties, the potential of the Chukchi Sea, and the money Shell has already invested in the project, are too big to pass up (Marketplace). The Chukchi Sea license represents Shell’s largest single exploration prospect, and Shell’s outgoing CEO Peter Voser said this week that even if oil is discovered, it won’t make its way to market until the “second half of the next decade” (ADN). Just before the holidays, Shell responded to a list of requests for additional information from the Bureau of Ocean of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) regarding the company’s plan for 2014, touching on a wide range of topics including vessel permitting, oil spill containment, and environmental and social impacts of the proposed work (PN). If you’re interested in the details (and there are many) you can access the full text of Shell’s responses, along with all previous documentation, on the BOEM’s website. In Washington DC, environmentalists are heartened to hear that John Podesta, a noted opponent of Arctic oil and gas exploration, will be returning to the Obama administration as an advisor, hoping perhaps he will be able to bend the president’s ear regarding permitting of Shell’s 2014 exploration plan (NJ).

Wind power satisfies nearly 30% of Sweden’s energy needs, but experts worry that wind farms may be growing too fast in Sweden and crowding out other important investments that need to be made in the region’s electricity grid (AD).




The National Energy Board gave conditional approval to the Northern Gateway pipeline, a proposed pipeline that would carry over 500,000 barrels a day of Alberta oilsands crude to Kitimat, BC (Vancouver Sun). The new pipeline could lead to an increase of over 700 large tankers a year traversing Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a fact which is raising concerns about oil spill preparedness and prevention in coastal Alaska (KUCB).


Our Science/Environment/Wildlife author was not available this week. Tune in next week!


Russia Continues to Upgrade Capabilities, Expand Presence in Region

Two new Borey-class nuclear submarines – the Yury Dolgoruky and the Alexander Nevsky – have been reassigned from Russia’s Pacific Fleet to its Northern Fleet as they enter service. The Borey-class submarines are expected to replace the Typhoon-class, and are the first ballistic missile submarine class built in post-Soviet Russia. Two additional Borey-class subs are expected to enter service by the end of 2014 (AJ). However, the submarines will likely play a reduced role in operations until problems with their missile system – the Bulava – are ironed out (BO). Northern Fleet spokesman Capt. 1st Rank Vadim Serga also announced that naval aircraft will take advantage of the planned opening of new airfields in the region – to include the recently-opened airfield on the Novosibirsk Islands – to extend the range of their patrols. Serga stated that Tu-142 and Il-38 aircraft carried out over 30 patrols in the Arctic during 2013 (RIAN and BricsPost). Aviation assets will also undergo upgrades: Il-38N pilots will begin retraining for an upgraded version of the aircraft in 2013, and the Ulan-Ude aircraft manufacturing plant has announced plans to modify the Mi-8 transport helicopter for use in Arctic operations. The modifications will include “a more powerful engine, an auxiliary electric generator, an ice-protection system and ski landing gear for landing on soft snow and swamps” (RIAN and RIAN).

Danish military commanders responded to criticism of the country’s five newest and most powerful ships – three frigates and two support ships – by claiming that the new ships can form an important part of naval operations off the shore of Greenland. The vessels were approved between 2000-2004 when neither the military nor parliament was placing much emphasis on Arctic operations; as a result, none have reinforced hulls and are thus unsuitable for operating in ice, and the ships are also too large to navigate Greenlandic fjords (AJ).

Russia plans to surface a nuclear sub at the geographic North Pole within the next year (AIR, in Russian).



Did you miss out on your Canadian mining news during the holidays? If so, the Canadian Mining Journal provides a brief summary of all the developments you missed. Although 2013 wasn’t a great year for the mining industry across the Arctic, Canadian miners are bullish about 2014, with almost half of firms polled in a recent survey saying that they expect business to pick up in 2014 (CMJ).

While the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is not a promising region for oil and gas exploration, the region may hold extensive mineral deposits that have attracted the attention of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (BO).

Two good articles this week on mining in Greenland. The first explores concerns about the environmental and social consequences of London Mining’s proposed iron mine near Isua (Guardian). In the second article, James Fletcher, writing for the BBC, shows how these concerns are manifest in the small towns along coastal Greenland that happen to be located next to a proposed mine and suddenly find themselves thrust into a national and global debate about resource extraction in the Arctic (BBC). Well worth the read.

Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich is highlighting his support for oil exploration and mining in Alaska as he approaches a tough election fight in 2014 (The Hill).

Our Fishers/Shipping/Business author was not available this week. Tune in next week!


Alcohol consumption down in Finland

Recent figures from the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL show both a five percent decrease in total alcohol consumption and a five percent drop in alcohol-related inpatient care periods since 2011 (EOTA, AD). Surveys indicate that the drop may be attributable to an ongoing decline in alcohol use among young people.

Online job portal threatens Northern Canadian newspapers

Canada’s Northwest Territories launched a new jobs website in October, a decision which Northern Journal publisher Don Jaque says could curb advertising and result in the downfall of northern newspapers (EOTA, CBC). NWT deputy human resources minister Sheila Bassi-Kellett has said that the new website should not result in a significant financial loss, but Jaque said that without government support northern papers “simply cannot operate.”

Lower life expectancies reported in Canada's North (AD)


Winter weather hits Canada’s North (YN, CBC).
Land to be protected (AIR, in Russian) and resettlement encouraged (AIR, in Russian) in Yamal-Nenets.



Two articles examine the challenges and opportunities of infrastructural expansion in an increasingly busy Alaska. The Alaska Journal of Commerce examines some of the challenges to securing funding for infrastructure projects in the state, while the AP reports on ongoing work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare recommendations for building port facilities in western Alaska to service ships headed to the Arctic (ADN).

United States

2013 saw a record number of crossings over the Norwegian/Russian border at the Storskog-Borisoglebsk crossing point (BO).


Start off your new year with Alaska Dispatch’s peerless preview of the 2014 sled dog racing season (AD).


Check out the official webpage of the 2015 Bylot Arctic expedition.


Starting off the New Year with some cool Flickr shots, we have Road to 2014, Stylin, and Snow Job by Bruce McKay, A New Year and a New Sunrise by Mikofox, Sunset over downtown Yellowknife by nwtarcticrose, and New Year’s Dance by Clare Kines. Click here see the video version of Kines’ photo on Vimeo. Mr. Kines was selected as a finalist in the Global Arctic Awards International Photo Competition (CBC, EOTA).

A black-and-white shot of Barrow, Alaska from andrewkimmel, a fiery sunset and an all-blue landscape from amilezz in Bødo, Norway, and an Icelandic seabird silhouette from ifawhq were posted on Instagram this week. Outside published a feature on Instagram user arni_coraldo, and Finding True North posted its top Instagram photos of 2013. Adding to the photo haul, an Iqaluit moon, a scary submerged polar bear and clouds over Frobisher Bay were also posted on Twitter. This week’s photo stories (both Russia-based) include an Arctic wildlife photography “how-to” by Alexey Ebel for The Huffington Post as well as “Arctic Nomads Say Cheese for First Time,” posted by the Indian Country Today Media Network.

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)