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International Law on Antarctic Mineral Resource Exploitation

Runyu Wang

This book analyzes the legal regime of the exploitation of the mineral resources in the Antarctic. Therefore, it elaborates on the development of the Antarctic Treaty and the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). The author examines the history and influence of the Convention for the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA), which purpose it is to prohibit unregulated mineral resource activities in Antarctica, and its provisions are extremely strict with the aim of environmental protection. Through analyzing and comparing the CRAMRA and the 1991 Environmental Protocol, the book concludes that it is not beyond credulity to imagine that a new round of discussion on Antarctic mineral exploration will be held in the near future.

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Antarctica is the coldest continent in the world and is also the potentially richest continent in the world in respect to mineral resources. It is an ice-covered desert without human inhabitants, but it is also a controversial continent which has been drawing more and more international attention. The energy crisis seen as potentially impeding mankind’s development may prove to be one of the severest problems. In March 2011, the nuclear catastrophe in Japan1251 rang the warning-bell once again, clearly showing that nuclear energy is not perfect and may result in serious disasters and environmental pollution. Greenpeace reports that the radiation from Japan’s nuclear crisis is accumulating in marine life off Japan’s coast above legal limits for food contamination.1252 One potential result of this incident is the reconsideration of nuclear energy as safe energy, with the result that the world returns its focus to traditional energy sources, such as mineral resources. This will result in Antarctica, the only undeveloped continent in the world, remaining the focus of contest within the international community, much as it has been since its initial discovery and exploration.

The struggle for Antarctica stems from its controversial history. No one knows who was the first to find it or when it was first found. This unclear history provides ample opportunity for different states to assert rights over Antarctica. The seven states claiming territorial sovereignty over Antarctica can offer historical, factual and legal evidence to support their respective claims. However, the rest of the...

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