Norway to vote on opening two frontier Arctic areas to oil: minister

OSLO Wed Jan 9, 2013 6:21am EST

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OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's Parliament is expected to vote this year on opening two major frontier Arctic areas to oil and gas exploration, the country's energy minister said on Wednesday.

The world's eighth-largest oil exporter is opening large swathes of its northern offshore areas to oil exploration in order to mitigate falling production in the North Sea.

Among the areas being opened are the waters off Jan Mayen island, a speck of land situated to the north-east of Iceland, some 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) west of Europe.

The other includes the south-east part of the Barents Sea, an area that became available to exploration when Russia and Norway settled their decades long border dispute in 2010.

"A bill is expected to be presented to Parliament before Easter so that it is can be adopted within this parliamentary session," the country's oil and energy minister Ola Borten Moe told a business conference.

Parliamentary elections are due in September so a vote would take place before that time. The vote is widely expected to go smoothly as opening these specific areas to oil exploration is not a contentious issue.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)

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