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Battle over seabed begins as Arctic Forum gets underway in Moscow

media Orthographic Projection of the Arctic Wikipedia

A two-day Arctic Forum has begun in Moscow to try to prevent the North Pole becoming the latest battleground over mineral wealth.

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States, whose coasts lie close to the Arctic Circle, are all seeking to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic seabed and are competing over how to divide it up.

As the polar ice cap melts, the region’s resources are rapidly becoming accessible and its seabed is thought to hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 30 percent of the world's untapped gas resources, according to the US Geological Survey.

300 delegates will discuss co-operation at the forum but are also likely to argue their claims to the Arctic's riches.

Under international law a coastal nation can claim exclusive economic rights to natural resources on or beneath the sea floor up to 200 nautical miles (370km) beyond their land territory. However, if a country can prove its continental shelf extends beyond the 200-mile limit, it can claim a right to more of the ocean floor.

For the countries involved in the territorial dispute, the key lies in obtaining scientific proof that the Lomonosov Ridge, a mountain chain running underneath the Arctic, is an extension of their continental shelf.

Russia alarmed its vying neighbours by planting a flag on the ocean floor under the North Pole in 2007, laying claim to part of the seabed. The UN, however, rejected the claim and demanded more conclusive evidence

The five Arctic nations are locked in a tight race to gather evidence to support their claims amid recent reports by US researchers warning global warming could leave the region ice free by 2030.

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