Oil fever fuels new war over Falklands

The prospect of the Falkland Islands becoming one of the world's oil-rich elite communities may have contributed to the Argentine government's renewal of sovereignty claims.

As a dozen of the world's leading oil companies explore potential oil fields around the South Atlantic British colony, where the deposits may be one-and-a-half times the size of those in the North Sea, President Carlos Menem has issued a statement asserting that Britain should consider sharing sovereignty.

President Menem said that by 2000 he hoped "we will see the Argentine flag flying in the islands, either by itself or alongside other flags". He added: "If the Argentine flag flies alongside the British flag, that would be a step forward."

Although no firm geological data has confirmed the presence of economically viable quantities of oil, this has not stopped the island's 2,400 residents from making plans about how their resources will be marshalled.

During the licensing organisation period, the Falklands government estimated potential earnings from two hypothetical fields coming on stream. Yields of 250 million and 500 million barrels were forecast. This would net the islands an average of pounds 1.1bn a year over a 20-year period, the equivalent of pounds 483,653 for every man, woman and child in the islands.

Crucial to President's Menem's timetable is the fact that the revenue from oil, if any is found, would begin to flow in 2003.

Just as potential oil wealth eroded traditional ways of life in the Orkneys and the Shetland isles, so it appears to have affected the Falkland islanders.

Already the islands' economy has been overheated by the pounds 20m annual income from fishing licences granted around the island's ocean territory. Once thought to be a poor and remote community, they are now technically rich.

Control by Whitehall has eased since the Falklands War in 1982. The old dual masters, the powerful Falkland Islands Company and the Foreign Office, have been replaced by a semi-autonomous government.

The sheep, all 750,000 of them, are still there. But the population no longer describe themselves as sheep farmers. Fewer than 450 now live outside the capital, Stanley.

The British government and the Falkland islanders themselves will have been unimpressed by President Menem's comment. A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office rejected any idea of dual sovereignty and said: "We have no doubt of our sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. We are not prepared to discuss any change over the Falklands. There is no change to our position."

But while the British government says it does not intend to change its view of the Falklands, the people of the Falklands may be planning to change their view of Britain.

Although the islanders are still grateful for the intervention of the task force in 1982, which ended the attempt by the then Argentine leader, General Galtieri, to retake the "Malvinas", there may be a diplomatic feud between the islands and the mother country should oil be found.

The islands' council, the eight-person body that decides all policy, except defence and foreign affairs, has recently formally offered to pay the pounds 67m annual running costs of Mount Pleasant, the 2,000-strong garrison near the former 1982 military airport.

This sum remains Britain's sole financial contribution to the colony. When the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, visits the Falklands early in the new year, as part of the celebrations to mark the 164th anniversary of Britain's formal adoption of the islands, he will bring with him a Treasury demand for the Falklands' figure to be agreed - crucially, before oil is struck.

Despite the old British convention that dependent territories are entitled to the wealth generated by their own resources, another Falklands' war, this time involving legions of international lawyers, could be in prospect.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower