Countries’ Rights in Space: Asteroid Mining


Asteroids are estimated to have a reserve is priced of billions of dollars in terms of iron, nickel, gold, platinum and many other sources. In addition, gold, cobalt, titanium, aluminum and many other sources are estimated to have a rich reserve on the Moon. Another important reason that makes the moon important is that it claims to have enough Helium 3 reserves to meet the Earth’s 10,000 years of energy needs since it does not have a magnetic shield. Due to the availability of these rich resources, the leading countries in the US, China, India and Russia have plans to mining and acquire space in space. In addition to the technical dimension of the subject, there is also a legal dimension. The United Nations Office for ‘’Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)’’ was initially created as a small expert unit within the United Nations Secretariat in New York to assist the ‘’ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)’’ established by the General Assembly. Then, with the decision of the United Nations General Assembly, The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was established in 1959. The Committee that Turkey is a member since 1977 has issued the five basic treaty also 5 basic principles and declarations. When wanted to deal with mining in the sense of space law, according to Treaty of 1967 (the first of these treaties), it is necessary to look at the Month Agreement of 1979.

International Regulations: Moon Agreement and Local Regulations: Turkish Mining Code

Another agreement, which includes provisions related to space mining, and in the Month Agreement (Although the name is a Moon Agreement, it is arranged to be valid on all planets except the Earth in the Solar system.) that Turkey is a party, there are clear arrangements that underground and aboveground natural resources will be the common heritage of humanity.

According to the Space Treaty, space is dedicated to all humanity and the discovery and use of space, including moon and other celestial bodies, should be carried out in the interests of all countries, regardless of their degree of economic or scientific development; it is allocated to all humanity. In Article 6 ‘’ There shall be freedom of scientific investigation on the moon by all States Parties without discrimination of any kind, on the basis of equality and in accordance with international law.’’ article 11/1 ‘’The moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind, which finds its expression in the provisions of this Agreement, in particular in paragraph 5 of this article.’’ and Article 11/2 ‘’The moon is not subject to national appropriation by any claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.’’ provisions have been regulated. Due to economic concern, despite the fact that some countries which is leading on space activity such as U.S and Russia has attended to drafting stage of hereby Treaty, they did not become party to the treaty that they would hinder their commercial space activities and be restrictive.

According to Turkish Mining legislation, the definition of mine is specified in Article 2 of the Turkish Mining Law, ‘’All kinds of substances, except for petroleum, natural gas, geothermal and water sources that are naturally found on earth and in springs and that have economical and commercial value are considered to be minerals under this law.‘’ As long as the law does not include the words ‘’Asteroid’’ or ‘’Celestial Bodies’’ to the expression of ‘’earth crust’’ and ‘’water sources’’, any substance that Turkey will obtain from asteroids will not be deemed as mineral.

Environmental Issues on Asteroid Mining

Another issue related to space mining is the possible environmental damages that these activities may cause. Under the Space Treaty, states will carry out investigations and explorations of space, including moon and other celestial bodies, to prevent harmful changes in the earth’s environment as a result of harmful pollution and the introduction of out-of-ground substances and, if necessary, take appropriate measures for this purpose.

A group of lawyers who believe that the mining activities are lawful claim that the interest to be obtained should not be considered only as an economic benefit, that scientific interest would be beneficial to all humanity, that there is no regulation preventing mining in the Treaty on natural resources, that the right to sovereignty over a land will not be claimed by mining and that in terms of environmental damage mining operations on earth are actually more harmful.

Current Affairs

Surprisingly, during the debate on space mining in the legal platform, the US enacted a law in 2015, stating that its citizens and companies could do asteroid mining and space mining. It was also set out in the law that this did not mean that the United States claimed sovereignty in space, and that the United States obeyed the Space Treaty. Immediately thereafter, the International Institute of Space and Air Law made a statement that ‘’there was no clear regulation about the acquisition of natural resources in space’’ and that ‘’the US should therefore be considered as an interpretation of the Space Treaty’’. In February 2016, Luxembourg announced that it would support space mining and allocated a budget of € 200 million. In 2017, Luxembourg adopted the ‘’Law on The Exploration and Use of Space Resources’’. However, unlike the United States, Luxembourg has made a regulation in order to attract foreign capital that companies which are established in accordance with Luxembourg Law can benefit from this law without seeking the citizenship condition. The United States, Luxembourg and several countries are preparing the legal infrastructure for space mining. Therefore, sooner or later space activities will be carried out and Turkey have to give importance to the preparation of legal and technical infrastructure by giving the necessary importance.