Extraction of mineral resources from celestial bodies is a contentious issue at the international level. Discuss.

Published: February 4, 2016

Currently, there is an absence of strong international law on outer space explorations. There are two international level agreements viz. Outer Space Treaty (1967) and Moon Agreement (1979). The Outer Space Treaty emphasises that no country can claim exclusive sovereignty of jurisdiction over space; and no country can deploy nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. The treaty repeatedly emphasises that space is to be used for peaceful purposes. United States and most other countries are signatories to this treaty. The Moon Treaty bans all explorations and uses of celestial bodies without the approval or benefit of other states. Most countries including United States are not signatories to it. Further, in November 2015, the United States has signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act which allows the US citizens and companies to mine the asteroids and other celestial bodies. This act has extended the property rights over space minerals, though it would not allow claiming ownership of a celestial body.
This law has revitalized the contentious issue. It is argued that US law violates a number of treaties and international customary law. United States says that the law is not in violation of international treaties such as Outer Space Treaty because it has not given away the sovereign rights for the celestial body but only mining rights are given. The US law might trigger other countries to pass their domestic laws on space mining.

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