Monday, October 2, 2023
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Russia Exploits South African Port for Antarctic Mineral Exploration

Russia’s oil and gas exploration fleet is using South Africa’s largest harbor as a base for expeditions into Antarctica. Moscow’s mineral prospecting company, Rosgeo, is located in Cape Town and openly acknowledges its activities in Antarctica. Rosgeo claimed to have discovered oil and gas deposits equivalent to 500 billion barrels in the ecologically sensitive Southern Ocean, although it insists its activities are purely for scientific purposes and not mining. Russia and 28 other countries, including South Africa, are bound by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits mining in the region. South Africa has become a key ally of Russia, offering safe passage and harbor access to Russian vessels. Other gateway countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Chile have rejected Russia’s prospecting ships due to concerns over environmental damage and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Argentina, another gateway country, can only provide limited support to Russia’s operations. The South African government claims it is unaware of Russia’s activities in Antarctica, despite Rosgeo’s public statements. However, evidence suggests that Russia is conducting extensive research on oil and gas deposits in Antarctica. Critics argue that prospecting is a violation of the Madrid Protocol and that Russia, with South Africa’s support, is exploiting the freedom of scientific investigation clause to justify its actions. Calls for a “forever ban” on mining minerals in Antarctica are growing, although the terms of the Madrid Protocol could be renegotiated in 2048.

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