Outer Space, an Area Recognised as Res Communis Omnium: Limits of National Space Mining Law
Against the background of rapid advances in space technology and better understanding of the composition of celestial bodies, the utilisation of space resources has become an increasingly important topic.
The lack of a comprehensive legal framework and the consequent legal uncertainty surrounding legality and conditions under which space resources can be utilised represent a significant barrier for private investors. To be precise, outer space is not unregulated. There are norms of customary international law applicable to activities in outer space, and fundamental legal principles have been enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty. What is more, the Moon Agreement declared space resources the common heritage of mankind and envisages the establishment of an international legal regime; however, the Moon Agreement – the only international treaty explicitly addressing space mining – has been ratified/acceded to by only 18 states, and legal principles enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty are too vague to provide private investors with the regulatory certainty they need. As a result of the lack of progress on legally binding instruments within traditional fora, especially the UN COPUOS, several states decided to address legal certainty unilaterally – via national law. National legislators should take into consideration that national space mining laws are to be applied in an area that is open for access and use to all, an area recognised as res communis omnium. This article analyses regimes governing the utilisation of space resources and aims to identify practical implications for national legislators and diplomats.
The full article for the Space Policy journal is available below.