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Mineral Resources of the Circum Arctic
For practical purposes, the Arctic may be defined as the 36.4 million sq. km of the earth north of 60° latitude. Mineral recovery is further restricted to the 22.3 million sq. km of land, plus 5.2 million sq. km of shelf for prospective hydrocarbons. In northeastern Europe, the marine climate, the auspicious geology of the Baltic Shield, and long settlement by Europeans have fostered the mining and related industries. In the rest of arctic Eurasia and all of arctic North America, even the most favourable geology is secondary to accessibility because of sparse settlement and the rigorous continental climate. Although the geology indicates a mineral potential equal to that of contiguous areas with more temperate climate, economic considerations dictate that the high costs of exploration and exploitation be minimised by the intensive development of mining districts, rather than widely-scattered individual mines. The clustered mining operations centred around Noril’sk in Soviet Asia and around Great Slave Lake in Northwest Territories offer examples. New districts can be delineated by focusing exploration on commonly mineralised structures and rock types. In arctic North America, including Greenland, such prospective districts are numerous, though not unlimited. The limitations, however, are less geological than political.
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