Policy, Legal Processes and Precedents for Space Mining

The regulation of space activities and space mining is governed by international law, and the foundational document for this is the Outer Space Treaty. However, this treaty was signed over 50 years ago, and with the fast-paced development of space technology and activities, it has left some critical questions unanswered, such as whether individuals or entities are entitled to own resources extracted from outer space.

The Moon Treaty attempted to resolve these issues through an international benefit-sharing regime, but it was never signed by major space-faring nations, including the United States. Instead of seeking a new international treaty, the United States has adopted domestic laws recognizing private ownership of resources extracted from outer space and has entered into the Artemis Accords with selected key space allies. The Artemis Accords represent the United States' attempt to form an international consensus around its own view of the laws of space resource extraction, in the hope that it will come to be viewed as customary international law.

However, even with these new laws and agreements, certain questions remain unanswered, such as dispute resolution, preservation of historic sites in space, and the establishment of a mining claims registration system. As private commercial activities in space continue to advance, space mining law and policy are likely to continue evolving to address these and other issues. The Artemis Accords may be viewed as a tipping point that provided the necessary level of certainty to draw hesitant industry participants and investors fully into the field.

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