The Antarctic is a designated region of science. It is rich in natural resources, yet their mining is currently prohibited; however, at some point, the division of the continent between interested countries is sure to begin. When this occurs, Belarus won’t stand aside.
So far, only two domestic polar expeditions have travelled to the Antarctic: in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Until recently, no active steps were made, although Belarus has taken on certain responsibilities, launching its own research of the continent. To become a consultative part of the Antarctic Treaty, gaining active participation in important decisions regarding the continent, we must continue our scientific-research studies, using our own base at the South Pole. The issue was high on the agenda of a recent working meeting involving Belarus’ Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Vladimir Tsalko, and the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Co-operation in the Arctic and Antarctic, Artur Chilingarov.
Mr. Tsalko noted that it took about a year for our two states’ governments to prepare an agreement on co-operation in the Antarctic. It is fully ready and is expected to be signed in March. Little time is left, so discussion of terms for joint Belarusian-Russian work on the continent is essential. It is expected that Russia will pass on the Vechernyaya Mountain station to Belarus (as planned earlier), while assisting in cleaning and equipping the building. Russia’s Molodezhnaya polar station is situated nearby, which operates well; its experienced specialists will be ready to offer help if needed. “It would be difficult to start fully-fledged operations at the South Pole without Russia’s help,” Mr. Tsalko is convinced. “Of course, we could look for other partners but this would be much more difficult and less profitable.” Apart from assisting in preparing the polar base, Russia is offering to help train personnel for Antarctic research. Mr. Chilingarov believes Belarus needs to form a modern centre of polar research.
To date, 150 Belarusians have visited the Antarctic to seriously study the Pole and we are keen to further ‘conquer’ the continent. This could reward us with natural resources, communications and material for scientific studies. Moreover, Belarus hopes to offer the global community transport suitable for the harsh Antarctic conditions.
There is no doubt that Belarus plans to become a fully-fledged participant of the Antarctic Treaty, building its own polar base on the continent.