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Creating Contracts in a Vacuum: Space Mining and the Creation of Future Contract Law

Item

Title

Creating Contracts in a Vacuum: Space Mining and the Creation of Future
Contract Law

Date

2020

Volume

60

Issue

2

Bibliographic Citation

Kris Turner, Creating Contracts in a Vacuum: Space Mining and the Creation of Future Contract Law, 60 Nat. Resources J. 239 (2020).

Abstract

Asteroid mining is set to be one of the most lucrative industries of the near future. With mineral value that dwarfs resources found on Earth, the race to locate and mine these precious minerals will soon begin in earnest. However, asteroid mining raises numerous legal questions, including how to create contracts for private mining companies to exploit the asteroids. Standard mining contracts provide a foundation for earthbound contracts, while mining in extreme environments such as Antarctica and the seabed
provides further structure upon which parties interested in asteroid mining can begin building new contracts. These earthbound contracts also serve as a laboratory for international regulation, cooperation, and oversight. The added challenge of existing outer space treaties, some of which are unratified by space-faring nations for fear of loss of sovereignty create a complicated path towards creating an empowered international
agency that may oversee asteroid mining contracts. For asteroid mining to become a successful and regulated industry, the spacefaring nations of the world must take existing international treaties and form an agency with power to arbitrate and regulate or risk the asteroid belt becoming a new gold rush where nations and private corporations claim asteroids and the riches that they contain at great risk to equipment, investments and life.