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Guardian: EU countries seek to annex lucrative tract of Atlantic seabed

· UK, Ireland, France and Spain in mining rights bid
· Environmentalists accuse coalition of 'land grab'

A vast tract of the Atlantic seabed more than 200 miles off shore is being claimed by a coalition of four European countries eager to expand their oil and gas prospecting rights.

The joint submission to the United Nations by France, Ireland, Spain and the UK is based on a novel legal approach that is transforming the international politics of underwater prospecting. Environmentalists have condemned the procedure as legitimising "land grabs".

The diamond-shaped zone straddles the outer edge of the continental shelf under the Celtic sea and the Bay of Biscay. It covers 31,000 square miles, an area the size of Ireland, at a point where the seabed plunges down to what is known as the Porcupine Abyssal Plain.

The waters there are up to 5,000 metres (16,500 feet) deep, almost double the depth at which commercial extraction of gas is viable at present. Deposits of frozen methane, which may provide another energy source, are expected to be found.

by Fran on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 12:44:13 AM EST
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