Potential resources in Antarctica

A resource is something that exists within the environment. It has the potential to have value. The Antarctic Treaty has banned the exploitation of extracting resources for 50 years. However, global issues still place pressure to exploit these resources.

There are many resources in Antarctica, which include:

  • mineral and energy resources - most is currently covered by snow, including the world's largest known coalfield
  • fresh water extraction from icebergs (70 per cent of the world's fresh water is in Antarctica)
  • resources from the sealife - eg farming of fish and krill
  • scientific resources - scientists can study weather patterns, ecosystem adoptions and the past climatic and geological changes

Tourism also offers potential because of the attraction of this unique wilderness.

The map below shows where resources are in Antarctica.

Antarctica has a rich variety of precious resources

Mineral extraction

Extracting oil from Antarctica has been too expensive to consider in the past. However, as more land is exposed, building pipelines on the land is becoming a more viable option. As the price of oil increases and the availability of oil decreases, countries look to Antarctica as a possible location for supply.

Extraction of oil and minerals is banned for 50 years through the Antarctic treaty.

The Antarctic Treaty of 1959

The Antarctic Treaty was agreed in 1961 to help control human activity in the location and also to resolve disagreements over territory. It has been agreed that:

  • Countries who have signed up to the treaty are free to carry out scientific experiments and must share their results.
  • The environment must be conserved.
  • There must be no dumping of nuclear or radioactive waste.
  • The land is to be used for peaceful purposes only - no military activity is allowed.
  • Any new activities must be properly assessed for their environmental impact. Any impact must be minimised.
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