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What natural resources does Antarctica have?

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Introduction

Antarctica is the southern-most continent on the Earth and the one that we know the least about geologically. Two factors make it difficult to study the geology and mineral resources of Antarctica. First, the cold temperatures and strong winds, along with the 24 hour period of darkness during the Antarctic winter, make it an inhospitable difficult place to work and collect geological data. Second, less than 3% of Antarctica is ice free, which makes the study of geology very difficult. What we know about the geology of Antarctica comes from studying the small percentage of rocks that are exposed either at the coast or the tops of mountain ranges which extend above the ice. Our understanding of the Antarctic region is based on the theory of plate tectonics. This theory argues that the earth's crust is made up of a series of pieces. Each piece is called a plate. These plates float on top of the mantle like rafts. Because of this theory, most geologists believe that up until about 180 million years ago, South America, Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand were all joined together in one very large mass called Gondwanaland. ...read more.

Middle

One side argues by the time it is feasible to use an Antarctic resource, alternative sources will exist. Instead of using oil for energy there will be development of fusion reactors, solar, or geothermal energy. The other view is that increasing economic pressure will force mineral and oil exploration into more and more remote regions as resources are used up elsewhere. ICE: One of Antarctica's most important resources is ice. It is said that Antarctica's ice accounts for 90% of the world's fresh water. As a resource it has potential as a fresh water supply. Some people have considered towing icebergs from Antarctica to parts of the world in need of fresh water. At present the delivery costs make these ventures unprofitable. Another possible use of the ice on Antarctica is as a long term deep freeze storage site for grain and other foods. Again the costs of shipping and handling are currently prohibitive. COAL: There are coal deposits found along the coast of Antarctica. They are also wide-spread throughout the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. These deposits were formed between 35 million and 55 million years ago when Antarctica was covered by ancient swamps. ...read more.

Conclusion

METALLIC MINERALS: Mineral resources have not been found in great quantities so far due to the small amount of rock that is exposed. It is believed that, since the other continents that were once attached to Antarctica to form Gondwana have metallic and non-metallic minerals; Antarctica probably has similar supplies. It is also known that rock layers such as those in Antarctica commonly contain large amounts of cobalt, chromium, nickel, vanadium, copper, iron and platinum group minerals. The search for sizable concentrations of metallic minerals below the ice will be a difficult prospecting venture which would require costly geophysical and geochemical surveying and core drilling. Geologists have found small deposits of minerals in Antarctica but these deposits are low in quality and occur in widely scattered places. The peninsula seems to have the highest probability of containing economic base-metal deposits. Most of the minerals were formed or deposited during the formation of Antarctica and the other continents that made up Gondwana. Below is a table containing just 5 of the many metallic deposits geologists have speculated may lie under Antarctica's ice. Mineral Use Iron Steel Making Chromium Heat and Corrosion Resistant Steel Platinum Jewellery Copper Electrical Equipment and Alloys (Bronze) Nickel Stainless Steel With Technology advancing so fast, it will not be long before Geologists can ascertain what lie underneath the remaining 'untouched' continent. ...read more.

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