Russian energy company Gazprom officials met with authorities in the Yamal-Nenets area to launch production from the regional Bovanenkovo gas field in the Russian arctic.
Gazprom estimates the field could produce as much as 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas by 2017 and eventually account for 25 percent of the gas monopoly's output.
Vladimir Chuprov, a Russian campaigner for Greenpeace, said exploration campaigns might be a source of corruption for government officials, however.
"This is a huge black hole -- or rather, a 'snow hole' -- that would allow for centuries' worth of embezzlement," he was quoted by state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying.
RIA Novosti, in an analysis of arctic exploration, said it's cheaper to send a proton rocket into orbit than it is to drill in arctic oil and natural gas fields.
"If the costs are high, the potential gains from arctic oil and gas may be even higher: running into trillions of dollars -- and capable of sustaining the petroleum industry for decades to come," the report adds.
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