A unique Falkland Islands Government Forum on the scope for economic development and investment opportunities has opened in London with optimistic assessments for further offshore oil exploration and for expansion of an already highly successful fishing industry. The Forum ( on July 12) entitled Sustaining a Secure Future, attracted more than 125 delegates, including technical experts, businessmen and potential investors, academics, politicians and journalists.
The conference began with a re-affirmation of British Government support for the Islanders sovereignty and security, and rejection of Argentina's claims. In a keynote speech, entitled "A Political and Economic Overview of the Islands", the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State with responsibility for South American affairs, Mr John Battle, MP, also welcomed Argentina's improving relations and economic links with the United Kingdom, and renewed co-operation and travel links between Argentina and the Falkland Islands.
Britain stresses the importance of this co-operation in encouraging oil companies to conduct further offshore exploration to build on the knowledge gained from the six wells drilled in 1998, five of which found traces of oil, though not in commercially viable quantities.
In an upbeat analysis of progress so far and prospects for the future, the Director of Mineral Resources, Mrs Phyl Rendell, said recent calculations by the British Geological Survey and the Shell Oil Company indicate that organic-rich source rock has probably formed up to 60 billion barrels of oil within the North Falkland Basin. She made it clear that the Falkland Islands Government is eager to encourage new oil companies to join those who hold existing drilling licences in the North Falklands Basin.
She declared: "Further exploratory drilling will be necessary to prove the hypothesis that there is oil trapped beneath the organic-rich source rock. The current licensees are attempting to raise the necessary funds to enable this drilling to take place, and are actively searching for new oil company partners to provide extra money to allow such drilling to occur. The Falkland Islands Government is preparing an open door licensing policy in order to accommodate expressions of interest for unlicensed acreage".
She also indicated that the Falklands Government would welcome progress in co-operative oil ventures with Argentina in the Special Co-operation area South West of the Islands designated for this purpose in the 1995 Anglo-Argentine Oil Agreement. "Discussions", she said, " are progressing ...with a view to completing preparations for a licensing round of the Special Co-operation Area as soon as is practicabl