Skip to main content
×
Home

LEGALITY OF UNILATERAL EXPLOITATION OF SPACE RESOURCES UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW

  • Jinyuan Su (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

In recent years, there has been a surge of private investment in space resources and the enactment of domestic legislation aimed at protecting property rights over the resources to be extracted. This article argues that the unilateral exploitation of space resources is not prohibited by the principle of non-appropriation and is consistent with the freedom of use for common benefit and interests, with the caveat that it does not exclude others from exploitation or exacerbate inequality among States. It also argues that a laissez-faire approach would be detrimental to the orderly, sustainable and safe exploitation and use of space resources and calls for the establishment of an international regulatory regime consisting of rules concerning international coordination, benefits sharing and environmental protection.

Copyright
References
Hide All

1 O'Neill GK, ‘The Colonization of Space27(9) Physics Today (1974) 3240 ; O'Neill GK, ‘Space Colonies and Energy Supply to the Earth190 (4218) Science (1975) 943–7.

2 For instance, the raw value of the ore from an average-sized mineral-rich space object is estimated to be hundreds of billions of dollars. See R Ridderhof, ‘Space Mining and (U.S.) Space Law’ (18 December 2015) <http://www.peacepalacelibrary.nl/2015/12/space-mining-and-u-s-space-law/>.

3 DSI, for instance, recently announced a plan to fly the world's first commercial interplanetary mining mission. Prospector-1 will fly to and rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid and investigate the object to determine its value as a source of space resources. See Deep Space Industries, ‘Prospector-1: First Commercial Interplanetary Mining Mission’ <http://deepspaceindustries.com/first-commercial-interplanetary-mission/>.

4 U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, H.R. 2262.

5 ibid, section 51303.

6 ibid, section 51301.

7 Garner BA et al. . (eds), Black's Law Dictionary (9th edn, West 2009) 1335 .

8 Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, ‘Luxembourg to Launch Framework to Support the Future Use of Space Resources’ (2 February 2016) <www.gouvernement.lu/5653386>.

9 ‘Luxembourg Takes First Steps to ‘‘Asteroid Mining’’ Law’ (3 June 2016) <http://phys.org/news/2016-06-luxembourg-asteroid-law.html>.

10 ibid.

11 ibid.

12 Luxembourg Draft Law on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources, with Commentary (11 November 2016) <https://www.gouvernement.lu/6481974/Draft-law-space_press.pdf> 1.

13 L Barnard, ‘UAE to Finalise Space Laws Soon’ The National (7 March 2016) <http://www.thenational.ae/business/aviation/uae-to-finalise-space-laws-soon>.

14 G Oduntan, ‘Who Owns Space? US Asteroid-Mining Act Is Dangerous and Potentially Illegal’ NSNBC International (25 November 2015) <http://nsnbc.me/2015/11/25/who-owns-space-us-asteroid-mining-act-is-dangerous-and-potentially-illegal/>.

15 Lintner A, ‘Extraterrestrial Extraction: The International Implications of the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015’ (2016) 40 Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 139 .

16 Pop V, Who Owns the Moon? Extraterrestrial Aspects of Land and Mineral Resources Ownership (Springer 2009) 2 .

17 See eg Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), ‘Statement on Claims to Property Rights Regarding the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 2004’ <www.iislweb.org/docs/IISL_Outer_Space_Treaty_Statement.pdf>.

18 Freeland S and Jakhu R, ‘Article II’ in Hobe S et al. . (eds), Cologne Commentary on Space Law (Heymanns 2009) vol 1, 44, 55–7.

19 See generally Lee RJ, Law and Regulation of Commercial Mining of Minerals in Outer Space (Springer 2012); Tronchetti F, The Exploitation of Natural Resources of the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Martinus Nijhoff 2009).

20 Treaty on Principles Governing the Space Resource Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (19 December 1966), opened for signature 27 January 1967, entered into force 10 October 1967, 18 UST 2410, TIAS 6347, 610 UNTS 205 [Outer Space Treaty]. The Outer Space Treaty has 105 State parties and 25 signatories as at 1 January 2017. UNCOPUOS, Legal Subcommittee, ‘Status of International Agreements relating to Activities in Outer Space as at 1 January 2017’, UN Doc A/AC.105/C.2/2017/CRP.7 (23 March 2017) <http://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/spacelaw/treatystatus/AC105_C2_2017_CRP07E.pdf>.

21 UNCOPUOS, Legal Subcommittee, Draft Report of the 55th Session of the Legal Subcommittee of the COPUOS, Vienna, 4–15 April 2016, A/AC.105/C.2/L.298/Add.1, para 21.

22 ibid, para 23.

23 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, opened for signature 18 December 1979, entered into force 11 July 1984, 1363 UNTS 3 [Moon Agreement].

24 State parties are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). Signatories are France, Guatemala, India and Romania. See ‘Status of International Agreements relating to Activities in Outer Space as at 1 January 2017’ (n 20).

25 Jakhu R, Pelton JN, Nyampong YOM, Space Mining and Its Regulations (Springer 2017) 129 .

26 Outer Space Treaty, art II.

27 Garner et al. (n 7) 117.

28 L Hay Newman, ‘Luxembourg Bets Big on Space Mining for Some Reason’ (7 June 2016) Future Tense <http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2016/06/07/luxembourg_invests_in_space_mining_research.html>.

29 E Calandrelli, ‘Deep Space Industries Partners with Luxembourg to Test Asteroid Mining Technologies’ (5 May 2016) TechCrunch <https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/05/deep-space-industries-partners-with-luxembourg-to-test-asteroid-mining-technologies/>.

30 Ridderhof (n 2).

31 Gorove S, ‘Interpreting Article II of the Outer Space Treaty’ (1969) 37 FordhamLRev 349, 351; Lintner (n 15) 146.

32 Pop (n 16) 12.

33 Outer Space Treaty, art VI.

34 Outer Space Treaty, art XVII.

35 Jakhu, Pelton and Nyampong (n 25) 121.

36 Freeland and Jakhu (n 18) 50.

37 Outer Space Treaty, art VI.

38 Lee (n 19) 153.

39 ibid 167; Tronchetti (n 19) 199; Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) (n 17).

40 Freeland and Jakhu (n 18) 55–7.

41 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (23 May 1969) 1155 UNTS 331 [VCLT] art 31(3)(b).

42 See eg S Gorove, ‘Limitations on the Principle of Freedom of Exploration and Use of Outer Space: Benefits and Interests’ (1973) Proceedings of the 13th Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space 74.

43 See eg Williams SM, ‘The Law of Outer Space and Natural Resources’ (1987) 36 ICLQ 142 , 147.

44 Luxembourg Draft Law on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources, with Commentary (n 12) at 3, citing Law of 21 April 1810 concerning Mines, Mining and Quarries.

45 Gabrynowicz JI, ‘Space Law: Its Cold War Origins and Challenges in the Era of Globalization’ (2004) 37 SuffolkULRev 1041 , 1043.

46 Coffey S, ‘Establishing a Legal Framework for Property Rights to Natural Resources in Outer Space’ (2009) 41 CaseWResJIntlL 119 , 126.

47 See eg Johnson D, ‘Limits on the Giant Leap of Mankind: Legal Ambiguities of Extraterrestrial Resource Extraction’ (2010–11) 26 AmUIntlLRev 1477 , 1481.

48 U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, section 51301.

49 ibid. Luxembourg takes a similar view. See Luxembourg Draft Law on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources, with Commentary (n 12) 1.

50 IAU Resolution B5, Definition of a Planet in the Solar System <http://www.iau.org/static/resolutions/Resolution_GA26-5-6.pdf> at fn 3.

51 Jakhu, Pelton and Nyampong (n 25) 117, citing Jerry Coffey, ‘Celestial Body’ (27 December 2009) Universe Today <http://www.universetoday.com/48671/celestial-body/>.

52 ibid, 118.

54 For a discovery rate of near-Earth asteroids, see NASA, NEO Discovery Statistics <http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/>.

55 M Smirnoff, ‘Report from Working Group Three on the Law of Outer Space’ (1964) 7 Proceedings of the Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space 352.

56 Island of Palmas Case (or Miangas), United States v Netherlands, Award, (1928) II RIAA 829, 838.

57 U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, section 403.

58 Tronchetti F, ‘Private Property Rights on Asteroid Resources: Assessing the Legality of the ASTEROIDS Act’ (2014) 30 Space Policy 193 , 194.

59 For instance, under the UNCLOS, States have the duty to take measures necessary for their nationals ‘for the conservation of the living resources of the high seas’. See United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (10 December 1982) 1833 UNTS 3 [UNCLOS] art 117.

60 Under Chinese law, for instance, licenses for fishing on the high seas shall be granted upon approval by the administrative department for fisheries under the State Council. Fisheries Law of the People's Republic of China, adopted and promulgated on 20 January 1986, art 23.

61 UNCLOS, art 116.

62 See eg a letter from Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz commenting on H.R. 1508 as a citizen expert, dated May 12, 2015, in Congressional Recording on Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (21 May 2015) H3513.

63 Moon Agreement, art 11(1) (emphasis added). It is noteworthy that the provisions of the Moon Agreement relating to the Moon also apply to celestial bodies within the solar system other than the Earth. Moon Agreement, art 1(1).

64 Moon Agreement, art 11(3) (emphasis added).

65 Moon Agreement, art 11(5).

66 Draft Report of the 55th Session of the Legal Subcommittee of the COPUOS (n 21) para 22.

67 ibid, para 23.

68 VCLT, art 18.

69 Letter from HR Hertzfeld, M Schaefer, JC Bennett, and MJ Sundahl commenting on Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz's letter, dated 15 May 2015, in Congressional Recording on Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (21 May 2015) H3518–9; Schmitt H, Return to the Moon (Copernicus 2006) 282 ; Tronchetti (n 19) 222–3.

70 Garner et al. (n 7) 1681.

71 Hobe S, ‘Article I’ in Hobe S et al. . (eds), Cologne Commentary on Space Law (Heymanns 2009) vol 1, 25 at 35, para 36; F von der Dunk, ‘The US Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015’ JURIST: Academic Commentary (3 December 2015) <http://jurist.org/forum/2015/11/frans-vonderdunk-space-launch.php>.

72 Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), ‘Position Paper on Space Resource Mining, 20 December 2015’ <http://iislweb.org/html/20151220_news.html> at 2.

73 VCLT, art 31.

74 Lintner (n 15) 147.

75 Outer Space Treaty, Preamble, 2nd para.

76 See eg Pierson v Post, 3 Cai. R. 175, 2 Am. Dec. 264. Laurent F, Principes de droit civil français, vol 6 (3rd edn, Bruylant-Christophe & Cie 1878) at 10.

77 See eg Mineral Resources Law of the People's Republic of China, art 3, which provides that ‘[m]ineral resources belong to the State’.

78 UNCLOS, art 116 and Part VII, section 2 in general.

79 UNCLOS, Part XI.

80 Jensen M, ‘ Asteroidae Naturae: What It Takes to Capture an Asteroid’ (2016) 45 Southwestern Law Review 757 , 776.

81 Pop (n 16) 50–1.

82 UNCLOS, art 136.

83 Locke John, Second Treatise of Government (Hackett Publishing Company 1980) 18 .

84 ibid, 19, 21.

85 ibid, 19–20.

86 ibid, 22.

87 Outer Space Treaty, art IX.

88 Outer Space Treaty, Preamble, 3rd para; art I.

89 Jakhu R, ‘Legal Issues Relating to the Global Public Interest in Outer Space’ (2006) 32 Journal of Space Law 31, 37–9.

90 Cheng B, Studies in International Space Law (Oxford University Press 1997) 234 .

91 Coffey (n 46) 127.

92 JE Crimmins, ‘Jeremy Bentham’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (17 March 2015) <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bentham/>.

93 UNCLOS, art 151(10).

94 See eg Paxson E, ‘Sharing the Benefits of Outer Space Exploration’ (1993) 14 MichJIntlL 487, 495–6.

95 Lee (n 19) 156.

96 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, V.3. 1131a10–b15; Politics, III.9.1280 a8–15, III.12. 1282b18–23.

97 See eg Gorove S, ‘Implications of International Space Law for Private Enterprise’ (1982) 7 Annals of Air & Space Law 319 , 321.

98 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, 1836 UNTS 3 [Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention] art 2(1).

99 Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention, Annex, section 5.

100 ibid, Annex, section 7.

101 ibid, Annex, section 8.

102 Crawford J, Brownlie's Principles of Public International Law (8th edn, Oxford University Press 2012) 28 .

103 Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, G.A. Res. 1962 (XVII) of 13 December 1963, para 2, U.N. Doc A/RES/1962 (XVIII) (1 January 1964); International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, G.A. Res. 1721, U.N. Doc A/4987, (20 December 1961).

104 Letter from Hertzfeld et al. (n 69) H3518. See also Dunstan JE, ‘Toward a Unified Theory of Space Property Rights: Sometimes the Best Way to Predict the Weather Is to Look Outside’ in Hudgins EL (ed), Space: The Free Market Frontier (Cato Institute 2002), 223 at 229. Coffey (n 46) 126.

105 Oduntan (n 14).

106 Shaw MN, International Law (6th edn, Cambridge University Press 2008) 74 .

107 Case of the S.S. “Lotus” (France v Turkey), 1927 P.C.I.J. (Ser A) No.10, at 28.

108 B Richards, ‘The View from the Private Sector’, Speech at the Seminar on ‘Space Mining between the Space Treaties and the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act’, European Space Policy Institute, Vienna (13 April 2016).

109 Oduntan (n 14). Tronchetti also held that the extraction and use of extraterrestrial resources for scientific reasons is usually regarded as fully consistent with the terms of space treaties, whereas that for non-scientific purposes is not. See Tronchetti (n 19) 196.

110 Dunstan (n 104) 228–9.

111 NASA, Soviet Lunar Missions, <http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/lunarussr.html>.

112 NASA, Hayabusa Asteroid Itokawa Samples, <https://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/hayabusa/>.

113 Moon Agreement, art 6.

114 Luxembourg Draft Law on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources, with Commentary (n 12) art 3.

115 Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan; New Zealand intervening), Judgment, ICJ Rep 2014, at 226, paras 91–92.

116 ibid, paras 94 and 142.

117 Nelson TG, ‘The Moon Agreement and Private Enterprise: Lessons from Investment Law’ (2011) 17 ILSAJIntl&CompL 393, 396; Buxton CR, ‘Property in Outer Space: The Common Heritage of Mankind Principle vs. the ‘‘First in Time, First in Right’’ Rule’ (2004) 69 Journal of Air Law & Commerce 689 , 699.

118 Jakhu (n 89) 105–6.

119 Bilder RB, ‘A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options’ (2010) 33 FordhamIntlLJ 243 , 269.

120 M Listner, ‘The Moon Treaty: Failed International Law or Waiting in the Shadows?’ The Space Review (24 October 2011) <http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1954/1>.

121 For instance, the U.S. Space Resource Act applies to citizens of the legislating State. U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, sections 51301, 51303.

122 Outer Space Treaty, art IX.

123 Draft Report of the 55th Session of the Legal Subcommittee of the COPUOS (n 21) para 25.

124 Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy (n 8).

125 Draft Report of the 55th Session of the Legal Subcommittee of the COPUOS (n 21) para 27.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International & Comparative Law Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0020-5893
  • EISSN: 1471-6895
  • URL: /core/journals/international-and-comparative-law-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 77 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 255 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 29th August 2017 - 22nd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.