Arctic Mineral Resources        

Arctic Mineral Resources

(by Arnfinn Jørgensen-Dahl)



Beyond existing and prospective petroleum resources, deposits in the Arctic of other mineral resources are substantial by any standards. Yet, many known reserves of minerals are not exploited because they are found in areas to which access is poor or very difficult. To arrive at a reasonably accurate picture of the share of the Arctic as a repository and producer of minerals is difficult because of the uncertainty as to what constitutes the Arctic, lacking data and information and different recording and reporting practices.  This is simply to say that the data should be treated with caution in this area as in the other resources areas dealt with in this chapter.


The largest amounts of minerals are found in Russia. About 20.000 mineral deposits have been explored and more than 30% have been mined. The country is a leading producer or a very significant producer of many minerals and minerals derived products. Russia is the fourth largest producer of steel after China, Japan, and the United States, and together with Japan the world’s leading exporter of steel.

In 2005 the export of metals, precious stones and related products stood at $37 billion or 17.7% of total exports, second only to the export of oil and gas which was valued at $141 billion or 67% of the total. The share of Arctic Russia in the production and export of minerals of Russia is a question to which a return will be made later.

The Russian minerals industry is highly concentrated although less so now than in the past. Although very substantial indeed, the resources are not inexhaustible as Table 3.18 indicates.

Table 3.18: Year in which Reserves May Be Depleted


Year of depletion


Beyond 2025




Beyond 2025





Iron ore

Beyond 2025

Natural gas

Beyond 2025






Beyond  2025

Platinum group metals






Source: U.S. Geological Survey. Minerals Yearbook 2005

It is difficult to determine with accuracy how much of Russian minerals production is found in the Arctic. There is better information about some areas and regions than others.  Northwest Russia stands out in this context. The most abundant mineral resources are located on the Kola Peninsula where more than 700 different minerals have been found. The Murmansk Oblast has more than 200 deposits of 40 types of minerals. There are large reserves of nickel-copper ores, alumina, rare metals, titanium, construction materials and semi-precious stones, to mention just a few. It is the biggest producer of phosphate fertilizer in the world. The total resources of phosphor-bearing ores are estimated to be 16 billion tons including proven reserves of 5.8 billion tons. The region contains 687 million tons of proved reserves of apatite ores, and ten iron ore deposits with total reserves of 3.2 billion tons including 1.8 billion tons of proved iron ores reserves. Titanium resources are believed to amount to more than 10 billion tons. The resources of building materials are huge, including decorative building stones, sand and sand-gravel formations and some clay deposits.

The Arkhangelsk Oblast has total bauxite reserves of 120 million tons, and the north Onezhsky bauxite mine is the largest in Europe. Total reserves of diamond deposits are estimated at 130 million carat of diamonds of unusually high quality. The Republics of Karelia and Komi also have their share of valuable mineral resources and rare metals like gold silver, platinum, diamonds, nickel, chromium, cobalt, titan, wolfram, molybdenum and so on1 .

The United States

The total value of the non-fuel mineral production of the United States in 2006 was $66.5 billion which was an increase of more than 20% compared with 2005. The value of Alaska’s non-fuel minerals production in 2006 was about $2.9 billion or 4.4% of the US total. This was slightly more than double the value of the production in 2005. In 2007 the value increased to $3.3 billion. This made Alaska the fifth largest producer by value of minerals in the United States. Metallic minerals account for about 95% of the total value of Alaska’s non-fuel mineral production. In 2007 nearly all the value of the metals came from the production of zinc ($2.1 billion), lead ($389.5 million), gold ($511.2 million) and silver ($270.4 million).

In 2008 the value of exports totalled $3.9 billion which was 11% down on 2007. The falling values of some minerals were partly to blame. Because of high mineral prices in recent years, the value of Alaska’s export of minerals increased strongly until 2008.  Alaska’s main export markets are Japan, China, Canada, South Korea, Germany and Switzerland.


Canada is one of the leading mining nations in the world. Mining and mineral processing industries generated 3.4% of the national GDP in 2007 and the country is a leading exporter of minerals and mineral products. Practically all mining takes place outside the Arctic areas of Canada.

Ontario’s mineral output amounted to 27.9% of the total value followed by British Columbia with 16.7%. The Northwest Territories contributed 4.8% and the Yukon and the Nunavut Territories 0.1% each.


About 80 million tons of various mineral resources valued at $1.5 billion were produced in Norway in 2007. Norway is a leading producer of some industrial minerals such as olivine which accounted for 66% of world production. The total export value for the mineral industry was about $871 million. Northern Norway and Svalbard account for about half the value of non-petroleum minerals production.


  •  1. Arctic Centre, University of Lapland: http://arcticcentre.ulapland.fi/barentsinfo/

Arnfinn Jørgensen-Dahl, 2010, Arctic Mineral Resources, CHNL.©


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