It’s getting warm in Antarctica, but mining still a pipe dream

Over Christmas, a new research from a team of scientists at Ohio State University, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, showed the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is warming at three times the global average.

While some may think that melting ice might have some positive impacts for the mining industry, the discovery raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise.

Even if global warming and melting polar ice weren’t a concern, mining in the Southern pole is not an option.

First there is the Antarctic Treaty, signed by the 50 countries that operate bases there, which protects the continent by forbidding its military use and the exploitation of its minerals or other resources.

And then there is the extreme weather. Unlike the warmer and much more accessible Arctic, drilling for coal or oil off the Antarctic coast doesn’t seem feasibly.

Men not only would have to endure hurricane-strength winds and the world's largest icebergs, but they would have to figure how to drill pass the mantle of ice covering 99% of the continent, which is over 2 miles thick.

“If you decided to drill through to the rock itself, you'd have to figure out how to keep your drill head from getting sheared off; the ice slides by at more than 30 feet a year. And that's not to mention the vast expense of getting all your people and equipment to the center of the continent, or ensuring their survival in temperatures so cold that you can cut diesel fuel with a chain saw,” writes Gabrielle Walker for The Wall Street Journal.

“Even today, with all our technology and capabilities, Antarctica always has the last word,” she concludes.