© Diamond Offshore drilling/The Associated Press
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Argentina is intensifying its campaign to block oil development in the Falkland Islands, announcing on Thursday it will pursue "administrative, civil and criminal" penalties against the dozens of companies involved.
"We are going to defend the resources of the South Atlantic, which are the property of all the Argentines," Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said at a news conference. He said that includes any oil found off the shores of the islands they call the Malvinas, which have been controlled by Britain since 1833.
Once the colonial subjects of Britain, the roughly 3,000 islanders now determine their own fate. Already, they have collected millions of dollars in licensing fees for oil exploration, and they've had their first major offshore oil discovery - last year's Sea Lion strike that promises to deliver as much as 450 million barrels of oil.
It was found by Rockhopper Exploration PLC, which has been seeking a $2 billion investor to fund production starting in 2016. The company has yet to announce such a deep-pocketed partner, but if and when it finds one, industry analysts estimate that a total of $10.5 billion in taxes and royalties would start flowing into the Falkland Islands treasury from the Sea Lion find alone.
Argentina, which lost a brief and bloody war against Britain for the islands in 1982, aims to keep that production from starting by any means possible short of violence or war, Timerman said, adding that his government will always follow international law.