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18 Jul, 2008 13:24

Russia to handpick partners for exploration of energy-rich Arctic

The right of major companies to explore a disputed energy-rich area known as the continental shelf will be decided by the Russian government alone, according to President Dmitry Medvedev.

The announcement came as he signed a law setting out the procedures for access to the vast oil reserves believed to be located under the Arctic ocean.

The continental shelf includes Arctic territories which have been the subject of a number of disputes. Five states – Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark – are claiming the territory.

The aim of the new law is to improve the efficiency of Russia’s exploration and production.
“The continental shelf is our national treasure,” said President Medvedev. “So this law, as well as the procedures stipulated in it, is of a special nature. There will be no auctions, no tenders, which are usually used in such cases, only the direct decision of the government. This is a thoroughly thought-out decision aimed at enhancing the efficiency of using these national treasures.”
State-owned energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft are now likely to receive rights to explore the area to develop its oil and gas field potential.

The shelf is believed to hold up to ten billion tonnes of oil as well as gold, nickel and diamonds.

Last year Russia conducted an expedition to look for proof to back its claim that the area is attached to the mainland.

Russia hopes future exploration will lead to an official claim of ownership through the UN.