Denmark stakes claim to oil-rich North Pole

Denmark has claimed the North Pole. On Monday, the European nation delivered an official claim to a United Nations council in New York, part of a the race to own the Arctic that includes Norway, Canada and Russia.

Five nations including Denmark, the U.S., Canada, Russia and Norway are vying for claim over the North Pole. At present, all five countries’ claims to the Arctic Circle end approximately 200 nautical miles off their shorelines. These countries have been diligently mapping the ocean floor over the past decade to solidify their claims to the North Pole.

Each country must submit a claim to the Arctic within ten years of ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United Nations considers claims based on the extent of the continental shelf from the nation’s coast.

But early data suggests that Greenland, a Danish autonomous territory, may give Denmark the strongest claim to the North Pole. A study found that Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,118 mile-long underwater mountain range that extends off the coast of Canada to the waters above eastern Siberia, is connected to Greenland. This would make approximately 347,492 square miles of ocean off the coast of Greenland Danish territory.

“The submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark. The objective of this huge project is to define the outer limits of our continental shelf and thereby – ultimately – of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has been a process characterised by the very good cooperation not only between authorities within the Kingdom of Denmark but also with our Arctic neighbours,” Martin Lidegaard, the Danish minister for foreign affairs, said in a statement.

Denmark has submitted claims over five areas through the Arctic since ratifying the convention in 2004.

The claim would give Denmark control of potential oil and natural gas resources below the Arctic. A U.S. Geological Survey study in 2008 found that potentially 90 billion barrels of oil and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids are hiding under the unclaimed Arctic.

Last December, Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird announced that Canada would submit a claim to the extended sea shelf off its coast. In 2007, Russia sparked international controversy by staking a flag in the sea floor under the North Pole.

Support PBS NewsHour: