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Responsibilities and Liabilities for Commercial Activity in the Artic: Introduction

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Abstract: In recent years, there has been much focus on the Arctic. Thus, as the climate in the Arctic gets milder, new business opportunities arise. This is true both with regard to onshore and offshore activities. To oil companies, the prospect of being able to exploit the presumed large reserves of oil in the Arctic Ocean gives rise to consideration. Also, onshore mining has attracted interest. In Greenland, this includes mining of rare earth minerals, some of which can only be extracted by producing uranium as a by-product. Both offshore and onshore business activities will generate a number of related activities in support of the main activities. So will the general interest of the maritime transport sector in taking advantage of the shorter, arctic routes from Europe to Asia. Also tourism has the potential of becoming a prospering industry in the Arctic. Accordingly, also at a more general level, demands for goods, services and labour in the region must be expected to rise. Overall, climate change has given rise to an expectation of an increasing level of activity by private enterprises in the Arctic. However, with an increased level of activity also comes an increased level of risk that something will go wrong. For different reasons the realization of such risks in the Arctic may cause much greater damage than the realization of similar risks elsewhere. Thus, in many Arctic areas the economic survival of small local communities is dependent on the success of investment projects creating jobs and wealth for the inhabitants. If investments go wrong and turn out as failures, this may have profound negative impacts not only for the investor, but for society as a whole. Similarly, consequences of oil pollution at sea in the Arctic may well be much more far reaching than the consequences of similar accidents in other places. For example, it is a simple fact that the effects of oil pollution in the Arctic waters will last for longer than the effects of oil pollution elsewhere since the oil will not dissolve as easily in the cold Artic waters as elsewhere. In addition, large areas in the Arctic are only thinly populated and many areas are uninhabited and extremely difficult to get to. Thus, preventing, limiting and cleaning up after this type of incident poses special challenges. Given the magnitude and potential impacts of the realization of risks related to carrying out activities in the Arctic, the theme of ‘responsibility and liability’ calls for attention. The aim of this book is to explore these responsibility and liability issues.

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