spiegel | September 16, 2012 was a historic date. According to the statistics of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the US, Arctic sea ice shrank to cover an area of just 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles) on that day. It was the lowest coverage measured since the beginning of satellite observations in 1979 -- some 760,000 square kilometers lower than the previous record minimum in 2007.
The extent of the shrinkage indicates that the Arctic is changing at a breathtaking pace; a new ocean is opening up.
At the same time, interest in both shorter shipping routes through the far north and Arctic mineral deposits is growing. Norway is one of the five countries bordering the Arctic that can benefit from their proximity to the region's presumed riches. The decades-long exploitation of oil and natural gas in waters further south has made the country extremely wealthy -- and hungry for more. At the same time, polar countries like Norway have to deal with increasing pressure from politicians and environmental groups, which complain about the risks of resource extraction and would like to see them remain untapped. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Norway's new Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide talks about the politics of resource extraction in the region.