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Moon mining: it's closer to reality than we may think

20 February, 2013

Mining on the moon may move from science fiction to reality faster than most people think and Australia can play its part, a lawyer says.

But it may take many years to reach international agreement on the rules for off-Earth mining, Australian commercial satellite lawyer Donna Lawler says.
She recently spoke to Australia's first Off-Earth Mining Forum at the University of NSW.
Lawler says there's still global debate about the legality of off-Earth mining, with no clear-cut international agreement on a legal framework for such ventures.
But she says there is growing momentum for such projects as the major space powers eye the moon and Mars for their mineral potential and private companies develop space flight capability.
Lawler says it's a good opportunity for Australia to leverage its experience in mining and be among the first to develop techniques appropriate for low-gravity operations.
She said off-Earth mining was starting to look "a lot more likely", with the private sector in the United States moving to develop space technology.
"First there were a bunch of billionaires that were trying to do space things that people thought were just nutters."
But now a commercial launch facility had sent a craft to the International Space Station and private companies were proving more nimble than organisations like NASA, Lawler said.
"We may find things go quicker than we expected."
Lawler said national and international law still applied to people and objects sent into space but the key law in place was the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 signed by all the major space powers.
It declares there can be no claim of national sovereignty in space and treaty members must avoid contaminating the moon.
"What that means for moon mining is still of a bit of a moot point," Lawler said.
A later Moon Agreement had been signed by Australia "but none of the major space powers that are going to be mining any time soon", including the US, Russia, China and India, she said.
That agreement says that when moon mining is imminent, the treaty members will meet to develop an international administrative regime to govern mining.
Lawler said space powers may go in and grab resources in space or decide it's better to have some legal certainty and get together with other countries and form a regulatory regime.
"It will be interesting to see what the United States does in particular in terms of prompting any discussions," she said.
Source: AAP

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dave d | Friday, February 22, 2013, 12:29 PM
Oh please No!! Ju-Liar will lay claim to this too -look out for a new "green cheese" tax!!
Geoff Thomas | Monday, February 25, 2013, 11:46 AM
More likely the Abbottoir will want to send boat people there.
dave d | Monday, February 25, 2013, 9:42 PM
Sssssshhh Geoff -Ju-Liar will want to pinch that idea of yours for her own
sandeep | Thursday, February 28, 2013, 5:25 PM
moon mining is possible in near future and it will be inevitable...as mankind depends on fossil fuels and resources as the earth population grows.....it will be like movies..like AVATAR... and bear in the mind that bunch of greedy people will try to take advantage of the situation... and employ the unethical practices.. lets wait and see...
Robin Mark | Monday, March 25, 2013, 4:03 PM
Well, the green cheese industry will flourish