The constant rise in demand for exhaustible natural resources has attracted the interest of many nations globally, with many hoping to potentially harvest resources from outer space. Recently, a pair of professors from Western University launched a project whose objective is to tackle the gaps in the laws that govern mining in space and how these regulations may influence the companies and countries that would like to venture into the business of space mining.
The professors — Elizabeth Steyn and Valerie Oosterveld — set up the research project to investigate the regulations that govern mining in space and whether international environmental law could be used to tackle the lack of laws in the budding field.
Oosterveld, who is an Institute of Earth and Space Exploration faculty member at the university, stated in an interview that recently there had been a push to seize asteroids, which would bring critical minerals back to earth. She noted that asteroids held various rare earth minerals that are considered to be essential because they are used to manufacture military equipment, electric vehicle batteries and electronic devices on earth. Oosterveld also noted that mining on asteroids, the moon and even on Mars was currently under consideration because they are part of some of the areas in which space technology is working to advance.
Over 80% of the rare earth mineral imports in the United States are imported from China. Therefore, being able to obtain these metals independently would greatly benefit the country. Oosterveld observed that the country that had the most interest in space mining was the United States followed byChina. Other countries that are looking into the potential of mining in space include Canada, Russia, Australia, the European Union, South Korea, India and Japan.
The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, now known as The Outer Space Treaty, governs celestial bodies such as the moon and was drafted as the foundation of international space law.
Oosterveld observed that the treaty, which was negotiated between the Soviet Union and the U.S. in the 1960s during the space race, contains broad and unclear requirements and guidelines for countries, thus resulting in problematic uncertainty. She quoted the treaty, which states that all nations globally that are able to go into space can freely explore and use space but cannot claim property rights on celestial bodies such as the moon.
With space mining likely to begin in the next decade, Oosterveld says that the laws that govern mining in space should be based on responsible resource extraction that go hand in hand with what already exists in the current international space law and the international environmental law.
Space mining issues aside, plenty of companies are currently extracting the numerous mineral resources that are still available here on earth. An example is Excellon Resources Inc. (TSX: EXN) (NYSE American: EXN) (FSE: E4X2), which reported a 37% increase in its Q4 production of silver last year compared to the same quarter a year earlier.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Excellon Resources Inc. (TSX: EXN) (NYSE American: EXN) (FSE: E4X2) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/EXN
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