an excerpt from:
White House sees black gold in melting sea ice
Arctic sea ice has decreased nearly 20% in the last two decades as the Earth's climate warms, making access to the area easier. The eight countries bordering the region, including the USA, are now staking competing claims
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic seabed and subsoil hold as much as 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. Other resources such as nickel and diamonds also are present.
The melting ice also has led to increased traffic from ships seeking a shorter route between Europe, Asia and the Western Hemisphere.
All Arctic border countries except the USA have signed a 1982 treaty that establishes guidelines for where maritime boundaries should be drawn and a commission for resolving disputes. A two-thirds majority of the Senate is necessary to approve the law.
Ratification of the treaty "is a top priority for us," said John Bellinger, the State Department's top lawyer. "We've been watching as other countries are actively pursuing their own interests."
The treaty stipulates that countries can extract natural resources within 200 miles of their coast. Countries can claim more if they prove their continental shelf extends further into the sea.