Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces a new deepwater port and a northern army training base
On 10 August 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the Canadian Forces would develop a new deepwater port at Nanisivik, on Baffin Island and a northern army training base at Resolute. Both of these bases are located at strategic points along the Northwest Passage. This is a sea lane that Canada claims as an interior waterway, but which other nations - the US, Japan, and the members of the EU - regard as an international sea route available for use by any sea-going nation.
The economic implications of this dispute are obvious. Global warming has resulted in this water way becoming navigable for longer and longer periods each year. Instead of travelling through the Panama or Suez Canals, ships could travel along the edge of the Arctic Ocean. The time, cost, and distance of sailing from Europe to Asia would be significantly reduced. If Canada can make the case that the Northwest Passage is an internal waterway, all ships travelling this route would be required to pay transit fees similar to those paid for passage through Panama and Suez Canals - currently those fees fall into the range of $ 2 to 4 billion per year.
Choice of Nanisivik based on existing facilities left over from lead and zinc mining operations
Nanisivik was the site of a large mining operation with a huge dock for loading ore. The mining infrastructure (including the ore sheds, visible at left, loading belts, gantry, etc.) has now been removed as part of site clean-up.  This leaves DND with a "blank canvas" in Nanisivik, as it were. A small town site had been prepared for mine workers during operations. Now, the old worker housing, cafeteria, and community centre are also gone. What the federal government inherits in Nanisivik is an existing deep-water port with an airfield.
i think canada has two choices in the canadian arctic : USE IT OR LOSE IT .
the costs of initial development will probably be enormous , but the payoff - oil and minerals - should likely be quite substantial .
perhaps the canadian government will have to find a partner - the chinese seem to have plenty of money AND DEMAND for oil and minerals .
the U.S. seems to be SPENT OUT and will likely not have any spare cash for a partnership .
Alaskan Sea Drilling Plans Condemned
(By DAN JOLING, Associated Press, January 3, 2008)
The federal government will open up nearly 46,000 square miles off Alaska's northwest coast to petroleum leases next month, a decision condemned by environmental groups that contend the industrial activity will harm northern marine mammals.
The Minerals Management Agency planned the sale in the Chukchi Sea without taking into account changes in the Arctic brought on by global warming and proposed insufficient protections for polar bears, walrus, whales and other species that could be harmed by drilling rigs or spills, according to the groups.
The lease sale in an area slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania was planned without information as basic as the polar bear and walrus populations, said Pamela A. Miller, Arctic coordinator with Northern Alaska Environmental Center. The lease sale is among the largest acreage offered in the Alaska region.
"The Minerals Management Service is required to have preleasing baseline data sufficient to determine the post-leasing impacts of the oil and gas activities that will occur," Miller said. "They simply do not have that."
The MMS announced it would hold a lease sale Feb. 6 in Anchorage for the ocean floor on the outer continental shelf of the Chukchi Sea, the body of water that begins north of the Bering Strait and stretches between northwest Alaska and the northern coast of the Russian Far East.
The MMS is a branch of the Interior Department. Its stated mission is to manage ocean energy and mineral resources on the outer continental shelf and federal and Indian mineral revenues to enhance public and trust benefits, promote responsible use, and realize fair value.
It would be the first federal OCS oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea since 1991. The agency estimates it contains 15 billion barrels of conventionally recoverable oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of conventionally recoverable natural gas.
MMS director Randall Luthi said the agency took steps to protect wildlife.
"MMS funds a robust environmental studies program to monitor the effects of industry activity in the OCS, including more than 40 ongoing Arctic-specific studies," said Luthi. "Following up on a workshop attended by over 100 scientists and stakeholders, we are inaugurating a new suite of research for the Chukchi Sea to further monitor marine mammals, other communities, hydrocarbons, and subsistence uses."
The sale is backed by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and community and tribal leaders, he said.
"We believe our decision is a good balance, and will allow companies to explore this intriguing frontier area while still protecting the resources important to the coastal residents," Luthi said.
Miller and Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity said the MMS ignored dangers to animals and birds if an oil spill were to occur.
"No one yet has figured out how to clean up a spill in broken ice, so they just stick their head in the sand and pretend it won't happen," Cummings said.
Reads more like three choices to me -- USE it LOSE it or SELL it. Canada has a long-held appetite for partners with spare cash. So far it has worked well for them.
The truth is that Canada's claim to this passage as territorial waters is not likely to be recognized by Maritime nations, and it will take much more than an hypothetical Chinese "partnership" to change that. It appears you are merely trying to be provocative; instead you just look foolish.
Do you believe Canada's claims iof exclusive territoriality of the Northwest passage constitute a "winnable" conflict?
U.S. Delays Polar Bear Listing Decision
World Races to Win Arctic Treasure Hunt
(Jutta Wasserrab, Deutsche Welle, January 13, 2008)
While environmentalists worry about how quickly the North Pole is melting away, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the US are waiting for just that.
The thinner the ice gets, the sooner the treasures that lie beneath is can be unearthed.
Researchers believe there to be some 10 billion tons of oil and gas in the so-called Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range that stretches from Greenland to eastern Siberia -- precisely underneath the North Pole.
US scientists even presume that a quarter of the global crude oil and natural gas reserves lie beneath the Arctic ice. However, Rudolf Kudrass from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) in Hanover says it's not likely that larger amounts of these natural resources are to be found more than 200 nautical miles away from Russia, Canada and the US.
Nevertheless, it is precisely the area beyond this mark -- which, according to UN maritime law is also the boundary for conducting research, fishing and claiming natural resources -- that has peaked the interest of the five North Pole rivals.
There's just one catch: An exception can be made to the UN law if it can be proven that stone formations beyond the 200-nautical-mile border are part of a country's own continental shelf.
Russia, which sent a submarine to the North Pole last summer and rammed a Russian flag into the ocean floor, but also Canada and Denmark are looking for evidence.
The only way to prove a connection between the ridge and a neighboring continental shelf is by drilling and comparing bedrock, which can be very expensive in the Arctic, said Kudrass.
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, an international initiative, has already bored four times into the ridge -- at a cost of 12 million euros ($17.7 million). Since the drill had a maximum depth of 400 meters (about 1,300 feet) and could only collect sediment, it's still inconclusive as to who has claim to the ridge and the treasures it holds.
"The water there is around 4,000 meters deep so, technically speaking, it's new territory," said Christian Reichert, also from BGR. The energy prices would have to be extremely high for it to be worth investing there, he added.
What's more, drilling for oil or gas under the North Pole would have to be done under strict conditions as an oil spill at such low temperatures could have serious consequences for the environment. Not only could the oil seep into the porous ice cap, but the cold water contains fewer microorganisms to decompose the dangerous liquid.
In the end, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf will decide which countries will be allowed to explore the ocean floor in the Arctic. The applicants will have to submit evidence claiming their right to it by 2014.
The five states won't get around negotiations on the matter, said maritime law expert Alexander Proelß from the University of Kiel, since the UN commission doesn't have the power to decide what should happen in case the territories overlap.
Some experts have predicted a scenario reminiscent of the Cold War if the race for Arctic access escalates.
Proelß, however, said that's unlikely as the Arctic treasure hunt will be tempered not only by the states' own commitment to cooperation but also by existing bodies like the UN continental shelf commission and the Arctic Council.
White House considers listing polar bears
(United Press International, Feb. 3, 2008)
The U.S. Interior Department is considering whether to list the polar bear as an endangered species, it was reported Sunday.
Concerns that the bears' Arctic habitat is thawing because of global warming are prompting calls for the species to be extended federal protections, The Los Angeles Times reported.
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others," said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity. "And then there is the polar bear."
If the planet continues warming, two-thirds of the polar bear population could be gone by 2050, the newspaper reported.
If listed, the polar bear would be the first animal granted protections as a consequence of global warming. The federal government would then be required to protect the bears in Alaska, the only place in the United States the species lives.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., asked U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall last week whether listing the polar bear could be used to halt the construction of a new power plant in Oklahoma City, The Times reported.
"The Endangered Species Act is not the vehicle to reach out and demand all of the things that need to happen to address climate change," Hall responded.
Russian bomber runs toward Alaska increase
(By RICHARD MAUER, Anchorage Daily News, 03/28/08)
Russia's resurgent military is again making sporadic, unannounced bomber runs toward Alaska's airspace, leading the Air Force to scramble jets to intercept and identify them, according to the commander of the Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Howie Chandler.
The most recent incident, involving two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, occurred Tuesday, Chandler said during a meeting with reporters at Elmendorf Air Force Base on Thursday. Since July, there have been 16 such incidents, according to the Air Force.
"That's an interesting thing that we're watching happening," said Chandler, who experienced the tail end of Russia's post-Soviet decline when he headed the Alaska Command from 2003 to 2005.
"We had one intercept of Russian bombers in my last year here," Chandler said. "That was the first intercept that had occurred in over 10 years at that point."
Since November, Chandler has been based in Hawaii, where he oversees military units from Alaska to Korea and into the South Pacific.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been rebuilding his country's military and its national pride, both of which fell into decrepitude during the years of Boris Yeltsin. Additionally, Chandler said, the warming of the Arctic, with the likelihood of an eventual year-round open sea lane, has the northern nations scrambling to increase their presence in the high latitudes.
The Tuesday intercept occurred outside U.S. airspace but within the air-control territory known as the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone. The Russian planes stayed within international airspace until they returned to base, the Air Force said.
"The issue involved today is not a Cold War issue," Chandler said. "But in this day and time, you simply can't allow unidentified aircraft to run around in your airspace. So when the Russians do fly where they fly in the Arctic, without filing flight plans and without prior notice, then we have to go see what those aircraft are."
When U.S. Air Force planes fly near Russia, he asserted, it's always on a flight plan filed with Russian controllers.
Russia is sending "mixed signals," he said, challenging the United States at times, cooperating in joint exercises at others. Ironically, Russian and U.S. forces worked together recently on a scenario involving an unidentified aircraft approaching the United States from Russian airspace, Chandler said.
While the Soviet-era Cold War was behind the Russian bomber penetrations through the early 1990s, climate change may be the impetus now, Chandler said.
"It's about presence in the Arctic," he said. "It does become a presence issue when you open the Northwest Passage with the ability to transit on the surface. People are going to want to know who's transiting."
March 28, 2008
Kimmirut kids ride with the wind
"Inuit learn in half the time"
KIMMIRUT - A small crowd of children marvel as Peter Qisiiq races across the frozen bay on cross-country skis, pulled by a harness attached to a big kite.
He hits a snow hummock and launches into the air. "Whoah," says one kid. "He's fast," says another.
Qisiiq, who is from Kangiqsujuaq, has practiced paraskiing, also known as kite skiing, for several years now. That's why the kids call him "the expert."
Each kid in Kimmirut's school will also have a chance to try to paraski this week. The lessons are offered by Guy Laflamme, a Montreal man who earns a living designing web sites, but spends his spare time dreaming up ways to spread his enthusiasm for paraskiing across Nunavik and Nunavut.
Laflamme says the kids he teaches are naturals. "Inuit learn in half the time," he says.
He figures there's no shortage of the two key ingredients needed to paraski in all the communities he visits. There's lots of snow, and lots of wind.
"Paraskiing is a perfect tool," he says.
All they're missing are skis, kites and harnesses. That, and a group of committed people to start a club.
It's the second year he's visited Kimmirut. This year, he plans to leave paraskiing equipment behind. He hopes a club will grow here, as has happened in Kangiqsujuaq, Qisiiq's home town.
For Kangiqsujuaq, paraskiing may even help draw tourists into a new provincial park established outside town.
The park is home to Pingualuit, a crater lake sometimes called "the crystal eye of Nunavik." Motor vehicles are banned near the crater to protect the lake's unusually pure waters.
Paraskiing would be a perfect way to visit the crater during the spring, suggests Laflamme.
But whether paraskiing sticks in Kimmirut remains to be seen.
To begin with, who will care for the equipment? Kimmirut's recreation coordinator is out of town. Meanwhile, the kites are both expensive and probably easy to wreck.
Past interest has been fleeting. Billy Akavak, a teaching assistant at the school, bought a paraski last year. He used it a few times to ski around the bay, but this is the first time he's used them this year.
Then there's that thing that Qisiiq got his lines all tangled up in: a snowmobile, parked near the pack of kids.
Paraskiing offers a great physical workout and an eco-friendly alternative to burning fossil fuels. But it's hard to compete against the convenience offered by a snowmobile.
Laflamme remains optimistic. After Kimmirut, he's off to Pangnirtung, then Kuujjuaq.
He knows that his dream of paraskiing clubs operating across the North won't happen overnight. He says he's giving himself 10 years.
The Arctic passions
(Alexandra Belyaeva, Neftegaz.RU Magazine, April 6, 2008)
The Russian Arctic expedition has come to an end. The Minister of Natural Recourses of the Russian Federation Yuri Trutnev said that the expedition collected all the necessary data for Russia to apply to the UN Committee to claim the right to the Arctic's recourses. But the foreign rivals are very unlikely to cede this territory.
As soon as our scientists declared the successful results of the Arctic region's exploration, Canada started criticizing Russia; in particular, the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper claimed: "This is our territory, our property and our sea. The Arctic belongs to Canada."
According to Mr. Harper, the Russian scientists' activity confirmed the necessity to assert the sovereignty of Canada in the Arctic region.
It is clear that the Russian part doesn't accept such arguments. At the end of September our scientist held in St. Petersburg the first meeting of the geologists from Russia, Denmark and Canada concerning an outer limit of the continental shelf in the Arctic. The parties exchanged the Russia's investigation results on the Mendeleev and Lomonosov ridges and the joint Danish-Canadian results of the Arctic basin research.
Curiously enough, but the scientists found the common language and, paying no attention to the political problems, came to the conclusion that the researches result of different countries coincide with each other in many ways.
And despite the analysis of the obtained data during the expedition is still in progress, most probably there will be no surprises from the scientists: they are confident that there are enough proves of the fact that the Mendeleev and Lomonosov Ridges are the prolongation of the Russia's continental shelf. The Russian scientists consider such meetings necessary to reach mutual understanding with the foreign colleagues before filing an application to the UN concerning the limit of the continental shelf.
But all that doesn't mean that the politicians of these countries will take into consideration the scientists' opinion. In fact, science is one thing, politics is another: neither the EU nor the USA wants stronger Russia.
The USA which earlier did not disclaim to the Arctic also expressed deep concern over the Russian investigations. The interest is clear, as the country's administration has recently prepared the report to the Congress on the new natural gas discovery. The USA plans to extract gas from the so-called gas hydrates, which are in abundance in the Arctic region.
This sort of mineral is often called "burnable snow" and its reserves are estimated at 200 thousand billions cubic feet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. "The gas reserves, contained in methane gas hydrates, are hundredfold bigger than the traditionally produced natural gas reserves, what can lead to the change in idea of the necessity to import natural gas from the other countries," the report emphasizes.
In 2007 the American researches were focused on confirming the possibility to explore distantly and produce Arctic gas hydrates.
That is, if Russia gets the northern territories, the Americans will lose the chance to extract the new sort of raw materials.
The problem which faces Washington now is to make the Arctic the international territory with the right to develop gas fields for any interested party. Russia, on the contrary, is trying hard to convince the world community that the Arctic, as 300 years ago, belongs to it only. In 2008 this dispute is to be solved. And we hope, in Russia's favor.
Nordic countries outline their Arctic interests
(RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin, April 10, 2008)
The prime ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland met in Riksgransen, Sweden, on April 8 and 9 for the Nordic Globalization Forum hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
They also coordinated their interests and put forth their views on Arctic problems.
The meeting was attended by the heads of Scandinavia's leading industrial and energy companies, trade unions, newspaper publishers, politicians, and globalization, climate and energy experts. It was not just a friendly get-together, although the summit was not expected to make any formal decisions.
Its focal point was the prime ministers' excursion to Riksgransen Mountain, which gave the name to the city, reputed as the northernmost ski resort in the world, 350 km (218 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Danish leader Anders Rasmussen, Iceland's Prime Minister Geir Haarde, Norway's Jens Stoltenberg and Finland's Matti Vanhanen were part of the daring excursion.
The subject of the meeting in Riksgransen was "A competitive Nordic region in a globalized world," or rather challenges of economic development, climate change and energy. The Arctic theme sounded quite loudly at the summit, with the climate, energy, globalization and Arctic experts gathered to encourage the Nordic leaders and Nordic cooperation to move in the right direction.
This was bound to happen, taking into account recent moves made by strong players such as Russia, Canada and the United States in and around the Arctic. However, while these three players are at loggerheads with each other over the region, the Scandinavian countries seem ready to act jointly, which they are likely to do better than other countries, considering their forays into other territories in past centuries and their experience in developing northern reserves.
The Arctic countries were stirred by Russia's August 2007 expedition, which placed the Russian flag on the seabed of the Arctic Ocean.
This infuriated Peter MacKay, then the foreign minister of Canada, who said: "Look, this isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory.' Our claims over our Arctic are very well-established."
MacKay said there was no threat to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, despite the latest claims by Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov retorted that Russia was not just placing flags, but doing what trailblazers always do.
Canada knew what it was all about by that time. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made four visits beyond the Arctic Circle since then, and Canada has pledged to allocate tens of millions of dollars for the construction of a deepwater port and naval base at Nanisivik, is expanding the army training center in Resolute Bay, has earmarked $7.5 billion for building several Arctic patrol vessels to protect its sovereignty, and will increase the group of 100 servicemen to 1,000 in the Arctic.
The United States is also increasing its presence in the region, and its ocean surveillance ships make regular visits there.
Canadians claim that Russia is trying to steal 460,000 square miles of seabed, an area five times larger than Britain, in the Arctic. But it was Canada who started trouble in the Arctic in the 1950s by proclaiming its sovereignty over the North Pole. The International Court of Justice ruled then that the territory would be proclaimed Canadian property, unless some other country proved during 100 years that it owns the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. This started the race.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a multi-disciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information and water, more than 25% of undiscovered oil and gas reserves could be under the Arctic shelf. Compared with them, the total reserves of Saudi Arabia, the world's largest net oil exporter, look like a keg of beer next to an Olympic swimming pool.
Besides, the world's climate is getting warmer, and the Arctic is thawing faster than any other region in the world. In 10 or 15 years, or possibly even sooner, the Northwest Passage off Canada, the shortest route from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean halving the travel time from Japan to Europe, might become navigable throughout the year.
It is therefore not surprising that the world has become addicted to "geographical discoveries" and the Arctic nations are marking "their" territory.
City man helps map floor of Arctic Ocean
(Janet French, The Saskatoon Star Phoenix, May 17, 2008)
He got a free trip to the northern reaches of the Arctic to blow stuff up, and it was all in the name of science.
Lloyd Litwin's arthritic fingers are still recovering from weeks of outdoor work at -40 C after a trek the University of Saskatchewan geophysics technician says was a trip of a lifetime.
In late March, the 51-year-old Saskatoon man was one of about 50 people on a month-long government-run expedition to map the North American continental shelf under the Arctic Ocean. If Canada can prove its underwater land mass extends beyond the country's current boundaries, it could lay claim to an area some say is rife with billions of dollars of oil and gas reserves.
"This is probably the last great land claim on this Earth," Litwin said in his campus office, flanked by shelves packed with wires and machine parts. "And I was a part of it. I might have helped secure Canada's oil future to become reality."
Litwin, who normally sets up labs for the university's geology department and detonates explosions for researchers' seismic experiments, was recruited for an exploration of the Alpha Ridge -- a 2,000 kilometre-long underwater mountain range that stretches from Ellesmere Island possibly all the way to Russia.
Canada has until 2013 to gather data to make its case to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that its coastal boundaries should be extended.
Geologists are trying to prove the sea bed belongs to Canada by creating loud sounds, then measuring how they bounce back, Litwin said.
Helicopters flew Litwin and his colleagues from a camp on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, out onto the ice over the ocean. A huge motorized ice auger (it looks like a giant corkscrew) drilled a hole into the ice, into which Litwin lowered several bombs on a special explosives cord about 100 metres down.
After setting up the bombs at 11 holes, 30 km apart, crews went back the next day to place 115 geophones, or detectors that measure the sounds bouncing back, on the ice.
The crews later set off the explosions at precisely timed intervals, with Litwin crouching down about 80 metres back from the explosives, his fingers on the detonators.
During the first blast, he was unprepared for the power of the shock wave from 17.5-kilogram pentolite bombs.
"I'm down on my knees, holding these two buttons, trying to look ahead where this is going to go up, and bam, this thing just thumps," he recalls. "I can remember seeing the ice lift, and before it settled down, it propagated (a wave), and you could just hear the ice, 'ccckkkk' (he makes a cracking sound) . . . all of a sudden it just lifted me right off the ice."
The 250-pound man fell on his face.
Litwin said he was more careful to lean backward the next time.
The teams set off four series of explosions, stretching about 450 km north along the underwater mountains and 225 km across.
The collected data is now all with Ruth Jackson, a scientist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia, Litwin said, and it's not so simple to analyze.
Researchers will be looking at the speed of sound waves that refracted off the sea floor. If the sound waves from the explosions over the Alpha Ridge travel at the same speed as waves that bounce back from Canada's known continental shelf, it shows the land is attached, Litwin says. It could take well over a year before scientists have analyzed the results, he said.
How did he get the gig?
He says people with explosives licences are hard to find because so many are busy working in the booming oil and gas sector. In fact, he even rounded up two other Saskatoon buddies, who also blew up explosives on the trip.
The novelty of going to a place where only a few scientists get to tread still brings a smile to his face.
"It was a whole new world up there," he said.
Denmark calls for Arctic states to respect international law in territorial claims
Canada to reaffirm sovereignty over High Arctic waters at
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | 1:12 PM ET
Canada is committed to defending and protecting its sovereignty in the waters of the High Arctic as it begins the process of mapping the northern territory with other nations, says the federal minister of natural resources.
Gary Lunn is travelling to Ilulissat, Greenland, on Tuesday to discuss Canada's claim to the northern seabed with officials from Denmark, Norway, the United States and Russia, who are also looking to secure their piece of the Arctic pie.
"There's a lot of co-operation between countries that is happening, but it's important that we have strong presence on the world stage," said Lunn.
The three-day conference is expected to discuss rules, dictated by the UN Law of the Sea Convention, on dividing jurisdiction over the High Arctic waters, one of the most rapidly changing parts of the world due to climate change.
As the ice continues to melt, countries with continental shelves on the Arctic Ocean are increasingly concerned over who controls the territory and its resources.
"It's critically important that it's under our sovereign control so that we set the parameters for the environment and that we make the decisions whether or not even to allow exploration," Lunn said Monday.
Under the UN law, signed by Canada in 2003, the five northern countries may be able to extend their sovereignty beyond the usual 200-nautical-mile limit recognized in international law if the seabed is an extension of the continental shelf.
Canada's claim includes a swath of ocean floor stretching to the North Pole that would be the equivalent in size to the three Prairie provinces combined. Canada has until 2013 to submit its claim on the area, which stretches from the Yukon to the eastern Arctic.
The area in question wouldn't be subject to any sort of overlapping claim with other countries, Lunn said. Canada's territorial disputes in the Arctic, such as the location of the boundary between the Yukon and Alaska and the control of the Northwest Passage, aren't expected to be major topics at the conference.
Firms already after oil, gas reserves
The High Arctic seabed is coveted for its potential oil and gas reserves, not just along the coast of Beaufort Sea but at the North Pole. Estimates put about 25 per cent of the world's remaining oil and gas reserves beneath the Arctic's ocean floor.
Energy firms have already begun exploring the waters off Greenland, while large deposits of gas are known to exist off the islands of the Canadian archipelago, as well as the coasts of the Northwest Territories and Alaska.
Inhospitable conditions, including extreme cold and six months of darkness every year, make the Far North a difficult place for exploration.
"There's an interest in those resources, but more immediate in the area is the fact that there will be more international shipping over the top of the world as the ice starts to melt," the CBC's Margo McDiarmid reported Tuesday from Ottawa.
The nautical journey from China to New York, for example, is 7,000 kilometres shorter if travelled across the Arctic waters over the top of the world rather than through the Panama Canal.
As new passages are established by melting ice, Canada will be increasingly open to international traffic across and around its borders.
"The fear is that there will be more international shipping, more cruise ships, and there needs to be some kind of control, especially for Canada for those ships travelling through its waters," McDiarmid said.
Lunn emphasized that boundaries in the High Arctic must be defined by science, but would not speculate on the possible outcomes of the conference, saying only "we want to reaffirm our commitment on the world stage."
The conference is also expected to address co-operation between the five countries on maritime safety, environmental protection and search and rescue.
With files from the Canadian Press
Summit seeks accord on Arctic sovereignty