At ARPN, we have long argued that we need comprehensive mineral resource policy reform. One of the main reasons we have finally seen some momentum on this front is the growing realization that there is a global race for the metals and minerals fueling 21st Century technology and our everyday lives — something that our competitors, and among them primarily China, have long figured out.
We have reported occasionally about events relating to the Arctic as a theater of the global resource wars — but it appears that a new front has opened up:
According to a recent news story, New Zealand – recognizing an uptick in international interest in the region – is looking to bolster its footprint in Antarctica. Writes RT.com:
“New Zealand is not typically considered a major colonial power, but the country’s recent defense policy statement revealed hidden aspirations of expansion in one geostrategic area in particular: Antarctica.”
The referenced policy statement, which contains numerous references to New Zealand’s role in the region, provides a little more context on why the country is looking to step up its involvement:
“Interest by both state and non-state actors in Antarctica and its surrounding waters will likely grow over the coming years. This will lead to increased congestion and crowding, as well as pressure on key elements of the Antarctic Treaty System, such as the prohibition on mineral extraction. States are planning and building new facilities. The planned Italian runway in Terra Nova Bay could support broader activities by a range of states interested in the region. China has begun work on its fifth base in Antarctica, on Inexpressible Island.
While an evolved treaty system is likely to remain the key framework for governing activities in Antarctica, difficulty in distinguishing between allowed and prohibited activities under the Antarctic treaty system could be exploited by states seeking to carry out a range of military and other security-related activities.”
New Zealand indeed is neither a major colonial power, nor is it considered a mineral resource power house. And unlike the Arctic, where the U.S. claim to the region comes via Alaska, we don’t have a direct claim in the Antarctic circle. However, what matters here is context. As the RT story goes on to explain, and as the policy statement indicates, China is once more the elephant in the room:
“In August last year, a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute warned that Australia’s leadership role was being eroded because of long-term under-investment at a time when other countries (read: China) were expanding their influence in the Pacific region. The report went on to warn that ‘China has conducted undeclared military activities in Antarctica, is building up a case for a territorial claim, and is engaging in minerals exploration there.’ According to the report, three out of four of China’s Antarctic bases and two of its field camps are in the Australian Antarctic Territory, further warning that China’s presence there is aimed at competing for resources, including minerals, hydrocarbons, fishing, tourism, transport routes, water and bioprospecting.
The report stated that China’s military activities in Antarctica have the potential to shift the strategic balance that has maintained peace in the Asia-Pacific, as well as in Antarctica, for nearly 70 years.”
With China continuing to jockey for a geopolitical pole position, here’s another good reason for U.S. policy makers to move forward with a comprehensive mineral resource policy overhaul. And now, it seems the geopolitical resource map will need to extend to Antarctica.