Antarctic Mineral Exploitation by Francisco Orrego Vicuna download in ePub, pdf, iPad
There are no known mineral deposits on the continent, so the argument for exploitation is highly speculative, but it is nonetheless dangerous. Although much about the marine eco-system of the southern ocean is still unknown, it is clear that overfishing could quickly damage it, and that any recovery could take decades. Once, deep water extraction from the hostile North Sea or Arctic Oceans seemed impossible, but now these are taken for granted.
Well-regulated economic exploitation of its resources need not ruin it and could provide valuable raw materials and a boost to the world economy. Placing the southern continent in the care of scientists and out of reach of both politicians and multinational corporations has ensured it can be preserved unchanged for future generations. Tourism should be greatly expanded to allow as many people as possible to visit this unique environment. Secondly, as the continent is already suffering as a result of global warming, our priority should be to find renewable alternatives to fossil fuels rather than to continue our dependence upon them.
Even just exploration would greatly damage the delicate environment, both physically and by greatly increasing the number of people disturbing the landscape and eco-system. Even legal fishing can do great damage - thousands of seabirds die each year as a result of longline fishing. Actual mineral extraction, with its spoil heaps, pollution, processing facilities and transport infrastructure would be hugely destructive. There are many reasons why oil and gas exploration should not be allowed in the Antarctic.
This provides a model and a precedent for future international cooperation and global efforts to save the planet. Quotas for different species are set very low by scientists sticking to very conservative precautionary principles, and could in most cases be greatly expanded without risk of overfishing.
Antarctica must be protected from mineral exploitation and the Protocol upheld. Russia, India and Iran have also expressed interest in Antarctica's minerals and there could be a new polar bloc that eventually pushes for change. In particular, it has a critical impact on the world's environment and ocean systems. It has increased the number of its research stations and has started building a new icebreaker. Antarctica presents an alternative to a world dominated by political disputes, economic exploitation and environmental destruction.
Revenues from tourism could in any case be taxed in order to offset the cost of scientific research. Adventurous tourists will also need to be rescued by the authorities, diverting resources from science. Oil and gas exploration should be allowed, both on the Antarctic continent and in the southern ocean surrounding it. Unchecked, this influx of people is greatly increasing the problems of waste management and their activities are having a negative impact on the coastal environment and its wildlife. Antarctica is a pristine and unspoilt continent of great scientific value.
It is thought the icy continent has abundant supplies of oil, gas, coal and iron ore. There would also be a serious danger of pollution, both from the increased human presence in this fragile environment, and from oil spills. Overall, tourism will create a precedent for economic exploitation that may make it harder to defend the unique status of the continent in the future.
Antarctica should be for all of humanity, not just for an elite few scientists who seek to deny others access while simultaneously demanding huge sums of money for their research projects. New evidence has emerged of China's interest in exploiting Antarctica's minerals despite an international agreement preventing it. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators operates a strict code of practice to prevent damage to the environment. The Antarctic Protocol of should be amended to allow for the possibility of mineral prospecting.
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