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Cold hard facts about Antarctica

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 15 November 2012


One of the consequences of the globe's growing population and correspondingly increased demand for resources is the competition for minerals and resources exploration in regions previously considered unviable due to high costs, remote locations or extreme environments.

In some instances this competition has led to territorial disputes including in the South China Sea, East China Sea, the Falkland/Malvinas Islands in the South Atlantic as well as other locations around the world.

While many of these territorial disputes have existed for decades, the potential for undersea exploration of energy resources has brought a renewed edge to many of the existing tensions.

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This global search for resources has also meant that places such as Antarctica are now facing greatly increased interest in terms of exploration potential.

It becomes rather complicated in the case of the Antarctic continent for it has no sovereign nation or government that can claim historical ownership.

This has led to a range of international treaties and agreements regarding access to the mineral and energy resources of Antarctica, and to the fisheries of what would normally be regarded as territorial waters.

There are at least 7 existing land and maritime territorial claims, including by Australia, which are not recognised by most other states, and the USA and Russia reserve the right to make a claim.

Until relatively recently the harsh climate precluded most types of activity.

Antarctica is a massive continent with a land area and ice shelfs almost double that of Australia's land mass.

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The landscape is covered in sheets of ice of up to 4 kilometres thick.

It is by far the coldest place on earth.

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) reports that the coldest temperature ever recorded at the earth's surface was minus 89.2°C in 1983 in Antarctica.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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