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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

Britain and Argentina in new dispute regarding oil drilling in the Falklands/Malvinas

(2 December 2013)

South Atlantic Maritime Claims map

The Argentinean government has passed a law declaring any oil or gas exploration on the Argentine continental shelf as an illegal criminal offence. The Argentinean embassy in London announced, “The law provides for prison sentences for the duration of up to 15 years; fines equivalent to the value of 1.5 million barrels of oil; the banning of individuals and companies from operating in Argentina; and the confiscation of equipment and any hydrocarbons that would have been illegally extracted”. Buenos Aires has issued legal warnings to British oil companies notifying them of administrative, civil and criminal action facing them due to their exploration operations off the coast of the disputed archipelago, known as Las Malvinas to Argentina and the Falklands to Britain.

The Argentinean Embassy further announced, “The Argentinean government has protested against and rejected all of the United Kingdom’s attempts to promote and authorise such hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities in the area of the Argentine continental shelf. These attempts are manifestly contrary to Resolution 31/49 of the United Nations General Assembly, which requires the UK and Argentina to refrain from taking decisions that would imply introducing unilateral modifications into the situation of the Malvinas Islands while the sovereignty dispute between the two countries is still pending”. 

The British Foreign Office stated that current drilling activities are “wholly legitimate and legal” as they are in accordance with the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea as well as under British government control as an overseas sovereign territory. The Foreign Office further declared, “The UK government unequivocally supports the right of the Falkland Islanders to develop their natural resources for their own economic benefit. This right is an integral part of their right of self-determination, which is expressly contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Argentine domestic law does not apply to the Falkland Islands or South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which are UK overseas territory”. 

In February 2010 similar tensions became apparent as a British oil company began exploration activities near the island group’s territorial waters. As a result, the Argentinean government initialised permits to ships wishing to travel through these waters.

The Islands remain disputed territory between Argentina and Britain, dating back approximately 200 years, including a war in 1982 where hundreds of servicemen from each nation lost their lives. In March 2013 islanders held a referendum and voted overwhelmingly to remain British territory, with 1,513 to 3 islanders supporting sovereign alliance with the UK. Argentineans strongly believe the archipelago is a national symbol and therefore belongs as the South American nation’s territory.

<span >Sources

“Falklands Oil Row: Argentina’s Threat to Firms” Sky News, 29th November 2013.

“Drilling for oil in the Falklands now punishable with 15 years in jail”, Terry Macalister, The Guardian, 28th November 2013.

“Britain, Argentina in fresh row over drilling in Falklands-media”, Aashika Jain and Marguerita Choy, Reuters, 28th November 2013.

“Argentine threat over Falkland Islands oil operations”, BBC News, 29th November 2013.

“Falkland Islands profile”, BBC News, 5th November 2013.