We often hear that mining has been banned in Antarctica for 50 years. This is not true. The Protocol’s prohibition on minerals resource activities is not limited in time. Further, there are strict rules for modifying the mining prohibition. Simply put, it cannot be modified before the passage of 50 years with anything less than consensus of all the Treaty’s consultative parties. After that time a review conference could be called, and it could decide to lift the mining prohibition. But two conditions would have to be satisfied — at least ¾ of the consultative parties must agree (including all of the consultative parties when the Protocol was adopted) and a binding legal regime on mining would have to be in force. As there is no obligation to call a review conference it could be a very very long time until mining can be contemplated in Antarctica!
Issue 3: Autumn 2002
Australian Antarctic Magazine
When can we go mining in Antarctica?