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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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Part 1: The Antarctic Treaty


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Part 1:   The Antarctic Treaty

There is still some debate as to who first discovered Antarctica, or even who first navigated Antarctic waters. In 1675, an English merchant Antonio de la Roché sighted a snow-covered island, which is believed to have been South Georgia. In 1772–1775, Captain James Cook circumnavigated the whole continent. On his third voyage in 1774, Cook reached the latitude of 71°10’S, 106°54’W, the furthest south of the 18th century. There have been some claims that Cook’s achievement was to disprove of the theory of the southern continent, because Cook only met “little ice and no land”.48 Oppositely, others contribute the confirmation of the landmass in the South Hemisphere to Cook’s exploration.49

In 1819–1821 Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, a Russian captain, sailed to the most southern point at longitude 92º19’ W. and latitude 69º 53’ S.50 He also confirmed the existence of a continuous open sea south of 60°S. Moreover, he discovered two islands off the west coast of the Antarctic peninsula, and named them Peter I and Alexander Island.51 The British confirm that Edward Bransfield, a British Captain, sighted the continent on January 20, 1820.52 Americans contend that Bransfield sighted only an island, and Nathaniel B. Palmer was the first to see the mainland on November 17, 1820.53 As to who was the first person to discover Antarctica, there are no consistent opinions. In 1841, Captain James Clark Ross, a British...

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