CHESHIRE, England (AP) A decade ago, a Canadian oil billionaire was paying $3,000 a year for a luxury mansion on a remote island off the west coast of England.
Now a group of British islanders is building an offshore drilling rig to make money.
A French energy company is leasing land and drilling wells to get a share of the profits.
The islanders are also hoping to build an electric grid that could power hundreds of thousands of homes.
It’s an energy revolution that is changing the face of one of the world’s poorest nations.
The islands of Chagos and Montserrat have been rich in oil and gas, but they are struggling with an energy boom that has sent oil prices soaring and spurred speculation about whether they will eventually become a major source of global supply.
The boom is also raising questions about whether the wealthy, French-speaking islands can remain a viable destination for foreign investors as they prepare to leave for greener pastures.
With the islanders now living on about $3 million in assets, some are hoping to tap into that wealth for economic development.
But that will require investing in a much smaller, more limited range of assets that could eventually drive up the cost of the island’s natural resources.
For now, the islander entrepreneurs are taking a cautious approach to the oil boom.
They are planning to make little profit, and they are working with French oil giant Total, which is building a large drilling rig on the island of Montserraro, a little more than a half-hour drive from England.
That will be the first drilling rig owned by a French company and one of two to be operated by a foreign operator.
It is one of many such projects being developed by wealthy Chinese and Indian investors in the archipelagic nation.
Chagos is one such island.
Its wealth is derived from a combination of oil, gas and minerals.
In the past, it has attracted investors such as a Japanese tycoon who built an underwater luxury resort in a remote corner of the archdiocese.
But the islands are struggling economically and are looking for a way to develop their natural resources to help offset their dependence on foreign oil.
The main island is home to a small population of about 1,200.
The rest are scattered around the arch, where some villages are home to fewer than 100 people.
The majority of people are fishermen and subsistence farmers who depend on the sea.
The population also relies on fishing for a livelihood.
“It’s the only place that has fish,” said Chagetao Chagol, chairman of the Chagos Economic Council, an independent nonprofit organization that focuses on development.
The group is trying to attract investment from companies that will operate offshore.
It has set up a website to showcase the projects.
“We want to give a voice to those who want to invest in our resources,” Chagatao said.
In a bid to attract investors, Chagotao is helping the island to become more like an island, by offering a smaller and more limited portfolio of assets.
The idea is to show the island that there are many different ways to invest.
The council plans to create a separate website for each company.
For example, a company could buy land from the island and lease it to another, or use it to drill a well and drill in another area.
The company would then rent the land from a third party and then sell the land to another.
“There are so many different possibilities,” said David Chagtay, chief executive of the council.
The Chagos Islands Development Authority, a government agency, has set aside $500,000 in reserve to help pay for the infrastructure, which includes a sewage system and a water system.
Chagagetay said the money would be used to provide food, pay for rent and for salaries of a team of five to run the project.
The agency is also developing a website, which would let people apply for the land.
The government has already offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a person or persons responsible for drilling operations.
A spokeswoman for Total, the French oil company, said the company is not responsible for the work of its partners and that Total and the island have agreed to work together to build the drilling rig.
The project has been the focus of a major diplomatic battle.
France, which owns the islands, is trying in recent years to get more of the islands’ natural resources off the French mainland.
France is pushing for the island nations to relinquish sovereignty over their mineral resources and for them to be able to use the offshore oil and natural gas fields.
The French government also is pushing a new law that would give the French government the right to negotiate with the islands to change their energy policies, like how much oil is exported.
It also wants the islands closed to all outsiders.
The current law allows the islands two years to negotiate