Regulatory Law and Policy to Support Space Mining

by Bruce S. Marks, Univ of Denver, Golden, United States,
William R. Sharp, Univ of Denver, Golden, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space III


Adaptation of modern mining law principles, such as those embodied in the U.S. General Mining Law of 1872, would protect mineral resource interests in space. A good illustration of a closely analogous principle is found in a recent maritime ruling. This case resolved competing claims to a shipwreck treasure 'find'. In that case, the Columbus-America Discovery Group relied on the cost of its exploration efforts over many years and its possession of advanced tele-robotic tools specially adapted for the task, to secure the initial right to exclude others from interference with their operations, as well as the eventual ownership of the 'find'. That ruling is consistent with modern U.S. mining cases, supporting similar rights for miners who must use expensive and advanced technical tools. The salvage and mining cases reviewed here may set precedent for space mining. They recognize concepts such as tele-possession ('tele-robotic possession') which may advance, or even supplant, the doctrine of pedis possessio, (physical 'foothold' on the land), which had been required for a miner to hold an exclusive claim while working to prove the mineral discovery. During that holding period, no exclusive ownership arises - only an exclusive possessory interest, but investors gain substantial and early security. This paper assesses, within the context of two likely space mining scenarios, the way mining, and related construction and industrial activities could proceed, pursuant to principles reviewed here. Space mining scenarios include asteroid mining, where development may become the primary, if not the exclusive, policy goal; and lunar mining, where preservation, protection and resource allocation policies may compete with development.

Subject Headings: Space colonies | Space exploration | Minerals | Claims | Benefit cost ratios | Construction industry | Asteroids, comets, and meteoroids | Resource allocation | United States

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