Britain to extend claims in Antarctica


London : Britain plans to submit claims to the United Nations for more than one million square kilometres of seabed off the coast of Antarctica, The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday.

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If approved, the claim would give Britain oil, gas and mineral rights up to 560 km into the Southern Ocean from the Antarctic coast.

Britain first claimed the British Antarctic Territory almost 100 years ago in 1908.

A 1959 treaty, also signed by London, states that no new claims should be made in Antarctica.

An additional protocol to the 1959 treaty signed in 1991 forbids mineral exploration except for scientific purposes.

The Foreign Office in London confirmed to The Guardian that data was being collected and processed to submit the claim to the UN.

Britain is also currently submitting claims to extend its rights around its overseas territories: the Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the southern Atlantic, around Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic and around Rockall to the west of Scotland.

France, Ireland, Spain and Britain have also submitted a joint claim over the seabed in the Bay of Biscay.

“There are five claims in total that (Britain) is hoping to put forward,” said a statement from the Foreign Office cited in the Guardian report.

“They are in the Bay of Biscay, around Ascension, off the British Antarctic Territory, around the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and in the Hatton/Rockall basin.

“We believe these five meet the geological conditions required. The claims are based on article 76 of the UN convention of the law of the sea.”

The article allows for UN member states to extend their territorial rights up to 560 kilometres from the shore over the ocean floor on a continental shelf.

The British Antarctic Territory is disputed in part by both Argentina and Chile.

The news of Britain’s claim comes after Russia caused controversy in the summer by planting a flag on the ocean floor below the North Pole, while France claimed thousands of square miles of seabed around its overseas territory of New Caledonia in the Pacific.