Emory Law Journal


Laura C. Byrd


As technology is rapidly expanding in the field of space exploration and the prospect of mining on the moon, asteroids, and other celestial bodies looms nearer, the problems caused by the absence of a legal framework to govern this type of activity in space are becoming more and more evident. The question remains open as to whether space resource extraction is permitted under existing international law, and it is unclear whether governments or private enterprises may assert property rights over such resources. While spacefaring nations appear to be reaching a common understanding that space resource extraction and utilization does not conflict with existing international space laws, such as the Outer Space Treaty, there is no law explicitly addressing this issue. The increasingly urgent need for a set of rules detailing the procedures and safeguards for space resource activities and addressing issues such as property rights is clear, but the proper forum and format for negotiating these rules is up for debate.

This Comment demonstrates the need for efficient and inclusive negotiations on the legal issues surrounding space resource extraction through a proper international forum. It details several major existing domestic and international terrestrial mining laws, as well as the current legal framework governing space. It then analyzes the various approaches to developing a law on space resources that have been proposed by various nations and scholars, arguing that the United States should lead negotiations to develop a set of soft law principles for space resource extraction through an international forum such as the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Next, this Comment suggests several principles pulled from existing terrestrial mining laws, such as the 1872 Mining Law and the Antarctic Treaty System, that may be applicable to space resource activities. Finally, this Comment contemplates the various environmental concerns that may be raised when space resource extraction comes to fruition.

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