Just as the race to claim the resource spoils of the Arctic is heating up, so too now it seems is the race for the Antarctic.
The UK is planning to claim sovereign rights over a vast area of the remote seabed off Antarctica. The submission to the United Nations covers more than 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles) of seabed, and is likely to signal a quickening of the race for territory around the south pole in the world’s least explored continent.
The claim would be in defiance of the spirit of the 1959 Antarctic treaty, to which the UK is a signatory. It specifically states that no new claims shall be asserted on the continent. The treaty was drawn up to prevent territorial disputes.
The Foreign Office is gathering and processing for a submission to the UN which could extend British oil, gas and mineral exploitation rights up to 350 miles offshore into the Southern Ocean.
Much of the seabed there is at such a depth that extraction of gas, oil or minerals is not yet technically feasible, but the claim may still anger neighbouring South American countries who believe they have more entitlement to the potentially valuable territory.