UK presses UN panel for expanded rights to Arctic seabed minerals

[JURIST] The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Wednesday submitted requests to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) [official websites] to claim exclusive harvesting rights to an area of the seabed surrounding Ascension Island, a British possession in the remote South Atlantic technically part of St Helena, the British overseas territory that where Napoleon spent his last years in exile from 1815-21. Under the Law of the Sea Treaty [text], a country has exclusive harvesting rights to a zone extending 200 nautical miles from its shore, but when a continental shelf extends farther a nation may claim up to 350 miles from the baseline or 100 miles from the 2,500 meter depth. According to FCO officers Wednesday, the United Kingdom also plans to submit similar territorial claims for seabeds surrounding the Hatton-Rockall area west of Scotland, as well as the Falkland Islands, also in the southern Atlantic. Denmark and Iceland currently have pending claims to the Hatton-Rockall area, as do Argentina and Chile to the Falkland Islands. BBC News has more.

Questions about Arctic sea oil and gas rights have become more pressing lately, as global warming estimates predict that previously unattainable ice-locked resources will be within reach by mid-century. New technologies also make previously unattainable under-seabed minerals extractable. In May, the five states bordering the Arctic met to discuss allocation of harvesting rights [JURIST report] to minerals under Arctic seabeds. Environmental organizations have criticized efforts to expand oil drilling [WWF report] into the Arctic Sea, calling for increased research into energy conservation and renewable resources instead. Critics have also said that offshore development will require massive amounts of infrastructure that could impact local wildlife.



 

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