The Legality of Marine Mining in the Antarctic Treaty Area
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Application of international law in Antarctica is so very complex and unworkable that the expert legal commentators assert with confidence that there are no real solutions in the law to provide. It is in this legal climate that this paper discusses the legal rights of different parties, should mining activity begin in the Antarctic. It will outline the legal rights and implications for the different parties who could be involved in mining activities in the future. In 1972 a member at the meeting of Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties is reported to have said, ‘This Treaty will last till a big mineral discovery is made – then it will be every man for himself.’ 1 The right to mine in Antarctica is intricately tied to international law. As the different states in Antarctica have differing and disputed status under international law, the legality of mining becomes complicated. The “frozen” claims, while practicable in terms of running a harmonious system, leaves a lot to be desired for legal clarity, as the legal status of the maritime area is subject to a multitude of different interpretations. The over lapping claims of Argentina, Chile and United Kingdom, and the unclaimed area of Marie Byrd Land Only adds to the difficulty of applying the typical international rules to the Antarctic. The seven Antarctic claimant states are party to UNCLOS. The United States helped draft the Convention, but has not signed it. The US has not made a claim in Antarctica, however, and in the event of the claims being tried, the US could feasibly attempt claim the entire continent, as could Russia. The rights of these parties will be discussed in a later section. The rights and duties surrounding the mining of the deep seabed will also be discussed in later paragraphs, but the question of whether the law of the sea zoning is applicable in Antarctica must first be canvassed.