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Book Chapter

Legal Aspects of Resource Development in Antarctica1

Michael Crommelin
Michael Crommelin
Law School, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
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January 01, 1981


Although there is evidence of energy and mineral resources in Antarctica, their development presents legal problems of great complexity. Seven nations have made claims to territorial sovereignty, several of which overlap. All claims are defined by sectors emanating from the South Pole. The main doctrine of international law determining sovereignty is occupation. The question of length of effective occupancy has been difficult to reconcile with the sector claims. Another practical problem of definition is "where is the offshore boundary?"

In 1959, an Antarctic Treaty was framed and 19 nations have since ratified the treaty. However, the treaty does little to delimit the Antarctic continent and completely avoids the claims to territorial sovereignty. The treaty does state that Antarctica is to be used only for peaceful purposes, and that no nuclear wastes are to be dumped or nuclear devices tested. The charter also calls for consultive meetings. At present, no modifications or amendments to the original treaty have been made.

The United Nations doctrine of "common heritage of mankind" achieved prominence with a proposal to draft a treaty that would reserve the sea bed beyond national jurisdiction for all mankind. It remains to be seen whether the United Nations Conference on Law of the Sea will devise an international regime for the ocean floors, and whether that law will extend to Antarctica.

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AAPG Studies in Geology

Energy Resources of the Pacific Region

Michel T. Halbouty
Michel T. Halbouty
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
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Publication date:
January 01, 1981




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