Australia strengthens commitment to Antarctic mining ban

Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica. Image: NASA.

Australia is one of 54 national participants to continue its commitment to a ban on mining in the Antarctic as the Antarctic Treaty celebrated its 60th anniversary in the Czech Republic. 

The annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ACTM) delivered a declaration reaffirming decisions made in previous meetings, including an ongoing ban on mining activities in Antarctica.

It reinforced the group’s “commitment to limit adverse impacts on the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems”.

The final declaration was delivered on Thursday last week, with all 54 participating nations in agreement that minerals exploration and mining not be carried out on the continent. The Antarctic Treaty has grown to its current size from an initial cohort of 12 countries since it was ratified in the United States in December 1959.

Australia is one of the original 12 signatories of the treaty, alongside Argentina, France, Chile, New Zealand, Norway, the US, the Soviet Union (now Russia), United Kingdom, Japan, Belgium and South Africa.

“(The ACTM) confirm that the Antarctic Treaty system ensures the effective and enduring international governance of Antarctica, providing for Antarctica’s use only for peaceful purposes, free from measures of a military nature, guaranteeing freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation to that end, and designating Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science,” the declaration stated.

The treaty contains 14 articles, including stipulations that Antarctica should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, with the establishment of a military presence, nuclear explosions or nuclear waste disposal being expressly prohibited in its terms.

The treaty also guarantees freedom not just to conduct research, but to freely distribute it to promote international scientific cooperation.

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