London, Oct 17 (UNI) The United Kingdom is contemplating to claim more than one million sq km (386,000 sq miles) of seabed around the world's least explored continent Antarctica.
The UK would submit the claim to the United Nations (UN) as against the 1959 Antarctic treaty, to which it is a signatory. The treaty, which was drawn up to prevent territorial disputes, clearly mentions that ''no new claims shall be asserted on the continent.'' The foreign office said data is being gathered and processed for the same and the claim could help extend British oil, gas and mineral exploitation rights up to 350 miles offshore into the Southern Ocean. This will help secure oil and natural gas resources for the future.
In a statement, the foreign office yesterday said the country was working to extend sovereign territory into new areas, the Guardian reported.
''There are five claims in total that the UK is hoping to put forward. 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,'' it added.
''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,'' it further said.
The ministers are yet to decide under what terms the application to the UN would be made. The UN process allows states to ''extend their territorial rights over the ocean floor on an adjacent continental shelf up to 350 miles from shore.'' Britain's claim on Antarctica will be controversial as it depends on proximity to the British Antarctic Territory which overlaps rival land claims by Chile and Argentina.
Although the extraction of gas, oil or minerals is not yet technically feasible due to the depth at the seabed, the claim may certainly cause resentment among the neighbouring South American countries who believe they have more entitlement to the ''potentially valuable territory''.
The 1991 environmental protocol to the Antarctic treaty prohibits all mineral related activity but for scientific research.
Due to the global warming and the need of the world's major economies for fresh energy sources, the international interest in exploiting the new frontier on the oceans' floors is rising.