A quarter of a century after the landmark decision to ban mining in Antarctica indefinitely, Australia has joined the international Antarctic community to reaffirm an unwavering commitment to protect the icy continent from exploitation.

Today Australia celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Madrid Protocol — the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which designates Antarctica and surrounding waters as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.

The Protocol is a historic international agreement which provides high level protection to the world’s last great wilderness. It is a legally binding framework for protecting the Antarctic environment.

It requires that all proposed activities, including scientific research, operations and tourism, be assessed for their environmental impact.

Antarctica is invaluable as a place for conducting globally significant scientific research and protecting the continent’s fragile environment is in the interest of all humankind.

Australia was one of the original proponents of the Madrid Protocol, and support for the Antarctic Treaty system remains a key priority for Australia.

Earlier this year, at the annual Antarctic Treaty meeting in Chile, Australia and the other Antarctic Treaty nations issued the ‘Santiago Declaration’, reaffirming their strong and unwavering commitment to the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid Protocol. In addition, they adopted a Resolution reflecting their unanimous support for the Antarctic mining ban, and highlighting that the Protocol and the mining ban have no expiry date.