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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 3: CRAMRA – A Dead Convention?


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Part 3:   CRAMRA – A Dead Convention?

Subsequent to Australia and France’s having explicitly announced their intention not to sign CRAMRA, and especially after a moratorium on mining activities had been identified by the Protocol, environmentalists hailed a great victory in having protected Antarctica from mining and delightedly deemed the minerals convention already dead. However, it is difficult to agree with this opinion from the perspective of both theoretical analysis and the actual statutes. Firstly, the moratorium on mining will, according to the Protocol, be reviewed 50 years after its having entered into force. The result of that review remains to be seen. Secondly, also according to the Protocol, the moratorium could be replaced by agreed and binding regulatory measures. Thirdly, although the international environmental protection movement is still flourishing, the gradual decrease of resources is an undoubted reality, especially in terms of fuel and energy, which might drive us toward exploiting new forms of resources or virgin area. Past “achievements” do not guarantee that environmental concerns will always have the upper hand over economic benefits in a field where politicians ultimately make the decisions. Unfortunately, as Dr. Beck has stated, “politicians tend to be long on environmental rhetoric but short on action”.779 Nonetheless, to some extent, the function of CRAMRA has been diminished in the vigorous battle for establishing Antarctica as a symbol of environmental protection. The following section shall undertake to objectively evaluate CRAMRA.

A.   Critiques of CRAMRA

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