Antarctica is considered a huge reserve of natural resources that is coveted by many.
The Treaty of 1959 "freezes" the territorial claims of seven countries: Chile, Argentina, the UK, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and France. They nevertheless continue to administer the claimed areas as if they belonged to them.
In West Antarctica, the areas of Chile, Argentina and Britain in the peninsula of Antarctica overlap in some places.
In East Antarctica, four countries share the territory: Norway (Queen Maud Land), Australia (Australian Antarctic Territory), New Zealand (Ross Dependency), and France (Adelie Land).
However, nations are lobbying to lift prohibition on drilling imposed by the Madrid Protocol of 1991.
At present, there are legal and technical limitations on unbridled exploration and commercial exploitation of the White Continent given the extreme weather conditions. For example, on 25 December 2012 Britain had to stop scientific drilling below Lake Ellsworth, located at a depth of 3.4 km without being able to complete the planned operation. In February 2012, in a similar operation Russia managed to drill down to more than 3,000 m in order to reach Lake Vostok located nearly 4,000 meters under the ice.
Other topics are discussed at the meetings:
- climate change and global warming,
Alongside the natural economic potential identified worldwide, the promises of various mineral riches that Antarctica has to offer boggle the mind. On account of scarcity of raw materials that triggered the race for exploration in all latitudes, the southern polar region represents new economic and geopolitical challenges across the entire planet.