Eyeing 2048: Antarctic Treaty System’s Mining Ban


By Sean Coburn

Antarctica is one of the last true wildernesses, an area yet unblemished by significant human intervention.  It is considered “the epitome of remoteness and inaccessibility.”  However, Russia, China, India, Iran, and Turkey are all currently building or expanding bases in Antarctica.  This is in addition to a host of operational bases already established by many countries including Finland, Argentina, the United States, Chile, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.  While various reasons, mainly scientific, are put forth for this flurry of activity, Antarctica presents a unique bounty for states—a potential vast reserve of untapped resources.  “The newer players are stepping into what they view as a treasure house of resources,” Anne-Marie Brady, a scholar at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury who specializes in Antarctic politics, told the New York Times.  In the past, Antarctica’s mineral wealth was seen as too distant and expensive to extract, but the warming climate and advent of new technologies will increasingly make extraction feasible by the time the agreement banning mining can come up for review in 2048.  In June 2016, twenty-nine nations reaffirmed their commitment to prevent mining on the continent; however, the diplomatic feasibility of this goal remains uncertain.

 

 

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