The 22nd License Round announced this week by Minister of Petroluem and Energy Ola Borten Moe includes as many as 72 blocks in the Barents Sea, several of them near the polar ice ridge.
"These areas are just as Norwegian as the Trondheim Fjord", Borten Moe stressed, adding that his political party, the agrarian Center Party, in its work promotes the slogan "take the whole country in use", thus signaling that also the northernmost Arctic waters will be exploited. "We are not going to the 84th latitude tomorrow [...] the development I am describing has a 25-30 year time frame", he said, Norwegian newspaper VG reports.
The news are already troubling environmentalist that see the act as "depressive".
Not all Norwegians agree that this would be effective. A recent report from the Norwegian Institute Marine Research state that as many as 74 of the 86 blocks included in the 22nd License Round should not be opened because of environmental concerns.
The Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency warns against the drilling, which it fears will reach a magnitude way beyond the capacity of current safety and preparedness systems. The Directorate for Nature Management warns against drilling near the ice edge and in areas with sea bird colonies.
But Norway has already mapped enormous areas in the Arctic waters, with data collected from an area up to the 85th latitude.