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Mining for Gold in Antarctica? Not Likely…

Antarctica is an impressive landscape that is filled with many untouched spaces and even wildlife. It is perhaps the least explored region in the entire world, due to its brutal and unpredictable weather conditions. Nearly all of the people to set foot on Antarctica have been explorers and researchers.

However, it is also a continent that has a variety minerals including gold. And it is even quite possible that there are areas that have very rich and completely undiscovered deposits of gold and other precious metals.

Even with this in mind, it would be difficult to actually get these minerals right now.

This is because mining is banned on Antarctica.

The potential for gold and other items around Antarctica is still there. Still, people will have to find ways that go well outside digging for gold just to find those minerals. It is unclear as to where or not anyone could actually ever mine profitably here. In fact, it would be extremely dangerous to do this on a continent where the conditions are extremely inhospitable to just about all life forms.


What Minerals Are There?

The minerals that are available around Antarctica include not only gold but also coal, nickel, platinum, copper and chromium among many others. These have been found in many places in the ground around Antarctica. Still, it may be a challenge to get to some of these spots as some of these deposits are located under nearly two miles of ice!

These minerals were found in 1958 by the McMurdo Bay research station. Operated by the National Science Foundation, it found that there are plenty of fine metal deposits all around the land.

The mineral locations that have been identified are primarily located around the coastlines of Antarctica. Much of the gold here can be found at the Ronne Ice Shell, a spot located around the northwestern part of the continent near the Antarctic Peninsula.

Why Mining Is Illegal

Mining is illegal in Antarctica due to the Antarctic Treaty. This agreement was introduced in 1959 and has been endorsed signed by twelve countries including the United States, Russia, Japan and Australia, among others. There are twenty total voting members associated with the treaty.

The Antarctic Treaty prohibits many actions that could disrupt the natural habitats around Antarctica. These include actions like mining, military activities and the use of nuclear waste and other nuclear materials.

This was designed to promote scientific research in the region plus to protect the land mass from possible damages. At the present time, there is no commercial production of any kind on Antarctica, and the continent is solely used for research purposes.

The greatest concern with mining in particular comes from how the land could potentially be harmed. This is especially considering how Antarctica is on one of the planet’s poles and a potential impact to the global climate from mining and other digging activities. While the actual effects are debatable, the Antarctica Treaty is still in effect, and will most likely stay the way it is for the foreseeable future.

Could It Be Done?

Certainly there is a possibility that gold and other minerals could be mined in Antarctica someday in the future.

The United States Geological Survey has determined that while mining activities should not take place out here, it could happen in the event that economic or political conditions around the world change dramatically.

Simply put, mining in Antarctica may be a last resort at this point. The costs that would be associated with mining somewhere as inhospitable as Antarctica would certainly be immense, and it is highly unlikely that any company could mine gold profitably there. And even if they could, there are certainly dozens of countries around the world that would be more appealing prospects than Antarctica.

Additional concerns come from countries like New Zealand and Argentina that are immediately close to Antarctica and could be directly affected.

The process of mining would undoubtedly be extremely dangerous to people in the region. Inland temperatures around Antarctica can get to be around -100 degrees Fahrenheit. This could make mining difficult and even deadly.

Plus, the fact that so many deposits are found under many miles of ice only makes the possibility of mining in the region even harder to handle than people might expect it to be. Costs would be considerable.

Also Read: Extreme Gold Mining in Nunavut, Canada

Whether or not the laws that keep mining activities from occurring in Antarctica will be repealed is uncertain. However, one point that is for certain is that there are plenty of gold deposits and other minerals to be found here. The potential for getting into those deposits could be difficult and potentially life-threatening, but if the laws are changed and mining becomes legal in Antarctica, there will undoubtedly be some exploration companies that will come here to search for gold.

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