​US passes space mining bill

The US has taken a major step forward in the latest space race, after passing a bill defining mineral rights in space.

The US first drafted its first space mining focused bills in September last year, in order to promote the development of a commercial asteroid resources industry for outer space in the United States and to increase the exploration and utilisation of asteroid resources in outer space”.

This was the first major step in regulating and supporting extra-terrestrial mining since the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which set out international standards for space exploration and ownership of materials found in space.

Now the US has taken the lead again, with the passing of its ‘Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015’, which is designed to establish “the guidelines regarding the development of space resources by non-federal entities”.

“This bill would create a domestic framework for assigning property rights for resources from asteroids and for settling any related legal disputes,” the bill states.

This means companies, as opposed to only nation states, have the rights to resources they obtain in space.

“Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law,” the bill states.

Prior to this bill no legislation existed outlining the rights of companies to resources mined from asteroids, although the issue of lunar mining still remains a contentious one.

Planetary Resources, which is backed by Google and has already partnered with Virgin Galactic as well as Bechtel, is one of the space front runners.

Deep Space Industries has also formed for asteroid mining, while China has sent rockets to explore the lunar surface for minerals, with the Chinese Government stating that "China's space exploration will not stop at the moon; our target is deep space”. 

The Japanese have also recently made leaps in this direction, as they prepare to launch a new probe to conduct mineral exploration on asteroids.

For an easy overview of asteroid and lunar mining, click here to see an infographic explaining the industry.

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