Argentina, one of the closest countries to Antarctica, has 13 facilities on the continent, more than any other country, according to 2012 data from the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP). The US maintains six facilities, while Russia has 12 and Japan five.
China is said to be building its fourth research base and a fifth is being planned, as the country expands its imprint on the icy continent doing studies on geology, geomagnetism and atmospheric science.
There has been a picture showing a Chinese icebreaker heading through sheets of broken ice towards the frozen continent, carrying a reported 256-strong crew.
Could there be more to this arctic region than just scientific researches?
If one has to base it on the recent findings by an Australian-led team that in East Antarctic deposits of kimberlite, a rare type of rock named after the South African town of Kimberley famed for a late 19th century diamond rush, exists, then there could really be more to it than meets the eye.
“These rocks represent the first reported occurrence of genuine kimberlite in Antarctica,” they wrote of the finds around Mount Meredith in the Prince Charles Mountains.
Note that no actual diamonds were found, but kimberlites are the type of volcanic rock deposit that typically contains diamond.
With kimberlite discovered in Antarctic, it can be said now that all of the Earth’s continents have this kind of rock below its surface.
But, whether or not the kimberlite deposit is of commercial quantity or economically viable mining it, remains to be seen as future explorations and mappings by countries in the area will surely continue.
Meanwhile let the researches continue to include, among other studies, the preservation of the wildlife in Antarctica.
This is what the 1991 Antarctic Treaty is all about – banning mining until at least 2041. Only 50 countries, however, have signed the treaty, and it’s not clear what will happen when the ban comes up for review.
I have the feeling that after 2041, it will be free for all as the nations involved, which will surely increase by then, will be claiming their own respective territories.
What else is new?