28 thoughts on “The Legality Of Asteroid Mining

  1. ken anthony

    This is why you need visionaries with the resources to follow their dreams. Because too many morons exist. Once and for all…WE ARE NOT SUBJECTS.

    International law, human law, does not trump natural law. Denying humans the wealth of the solar system is a criminal act. I don’t care what laws they write.

    It’s one notch below genocide. Only because it’s passive killing because the numbers are actually much greater than the few million we’ve already killed by evil ideologies so far. This denies wealth to billions of people yet to be born. It actually denies them the chance to be born. Denying property rights would be an unspeakable evil act. I don’t have the words.

    It may be that sanity prevails, but even the chance that it would not is too much.

    We are about to solve the Fermi paradox.

  2. Edward Wright

    “Neither the pubic interests, ranging from security, safety and the environment to protecting Neil Armstrong’s footsteps, nor the interests of the company in securing its investments are properly protected,”

    I have a hard time taking this professor seriously when he says Neil Armstrong’s footsteps must be protected from an asteroid project.

    1. George Turner

      Neil is still around. He can make new footprints.

      Of course, if his original footprints were that valuable to humanity, the UN and NASA would’ve forbidden him from returning to the lander because he’d have to walk over the ones he’d made when he’d exited the vehicle.

      I’d suggest a free market solution. Send a team to carefully spray the Apollo footprints with a fixative, carefully extract them and a couple of square feet of lunar soil around them, and sell sets of lunar footprints to museums and private collectors. If you could take out a large section where an astronaut walked, like a dinosaur track, and saturate it with epoxy, it could be used as the entrance way to important buildings. Real estate developers would pay a fortune for Apollo trackways.

      When the original Apollo footprints start running out, you do the same with the footprints of the people who were excavating the Apollo footprints, and when those run out, you sell the footprints of the people who excavated the excavators’ footprints. Eventually you build an entire economy on making and selling lunar footprints, using cheap immigrant laborers to run on lunar treadmills that shoot through a plastic sprayer and then dump into an Earth return vehicle. A clever businessman might even venture into lunar snow angels as architectural wall material. Such lunar artifacts should prove enduringly popular because gray goes with anything, whereas the red rust Martian color is an aquired taste.

      Or we could focus on doing something valuable.

    2. Michael Listner

      I would listen to him. He’s considered a pioneer in the area of space law and policy.

          1. Edward Wright

            So you don’t know either, huh? :-)

            I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be researching. Based on his Linked In resume and his Academic Biography, he appears to be mostly a teacher and researcher — someone who studies laws and policy rather than creating them.

            Not that lawmakers and policymakers are necessarily worth listening to.

            A major thrust of his work seems to be devoted to arguing that people don’t spend enough time and money on lawyers. Which is hardly an original idea in the legal profession. :-)

      1. George Turner

        Well, he says the US might have to halt the operation “… or facing the possibly that it may be sanctioning an activity that could be illegal under international law and the resultant diplomatic and political fallout.”

        What diplomatic and political fallout? We could be running death camps and shooting civilians in the street and the UN would only send us a weasel worded memo. If our violations of the treaty are egregious enough, they’ll probably have us chair a committee on space property, just like Syria and Iran always end up on the human rights committee.

        1. Peterh

          Ever get the impression the only time the UN really gets angry is when they see an opportunity to claim money or power? In this case there will be money at stake.

  3. ken anthony

    What rights of protection would the mining company have against others wishing to ‘intrude,’ given that a global commons is in a principled fashion open to everyone?

    This is almost the right question but based on a false premise. Why is the vastness of the universe out to almost 14 billion light years a socialist/marxist preserve? Why would that ideology be allowed? In the early twentieth century it might be forgiven for just being speculation. But it’s been tested now. It’s killed and brutalized millions. It can’t be forgiven as just speculation any more. We know the eventual results and it ain’t the Star Trek Federation.

    The right question is…

    What right does any government have to stop private individuals from making reasonable claims and development them for the overall good of mankind?

    1. George Turner

      We could argue that the Earth is the only part of the solar system that was ceded to humas by custom of occupation, and the rest falls under a claim filed by the Ferengi Grand Nagus Smint in 23,427 BC. Since neither species has at any time since been seen on, near, or using any of the afformentioned extra terrestrial properties, they remain open to claim under the Ferengi rules of acquisition.

      1. George Turner

        I’m not sure, but it is a point to ponder.

        You could also argue that since the planets are named after Roman gods, in Latin, the controlling legal authority would naturally be either the Pope or the mayor of Rome, both of which have visited the planets exactly as often as all the UN officials combined – for a grand total of zero visits.

        To me it’s like asking who had more legal authority over the settlement of Wyoming, A) Tibet B) Sparta C) The Holy Roman Empire D) The Council of Worms E) People who lived in Wyoming.

        Amazingly, we’re hearing from lawyers who wouldn’t choose answer E.

  4. Ike

    “… or facing the possibly that it may be sanctioning an activity that could be illegal under international law and the resultant diplomatic and political fallout.”

    “International law” is an empty bag. The only law that U.S. companies and people are legally obligated to obey is U.S. law and the laws of the various states. Unless common ownership and only allowing exploitation of whatever resources exist and can be extracted from various planetary and sub-planetary bodies for the ‘benefit of all mankind’ or whatever collectivist nonsense is in the OST is contained in a treaty which was ratified by the U.S. Senate, then it is not U. S. law. And, I suspect, that any treaty that was signed and ratified in accordance with the Constitutional requirements which contains or constitutes unconstitutional restraints or restrictions on the freedoms of U.S. citizens would be overturned by the Supreme Court. Legalities aside, anything that reduces the chance that a U.S. – or foreign – company would not be allowed to profit from space activities runs the risk of stopping them before they begin. Result? None of the oh-so deserving people of the Earth will get anything, until the incompetents who run Earth governments figure out how to get into space and exploit whatever resources can be collected and brought back to Earth. Fat chance of that. Most of those political idiots are unable to organize their own private lives in a way that is successful by ordinary standards, let alone an enterprise on the scale that these future asteroid mining moguls are talking about.

    1. Ed Minchau

      The only law that U.S. companies and people are legally obligated to obey is U.S. law and the laws of the various states.

      Tell that to Gibson Guitars.

  5. Abelard Lindsey

    the only international law that had any relevance and respect was the Geneva Convention, which was largely trashed by our invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    1. R Anderson

      I’m sorry, but I have a hard time letting that old “Geneva Conventions!!1eleventy!” canard slide unchallenged yet again.

      Would you mind detailing exactly which Geneva Convention you mean, Abelard? There are about a half-dozen different ones, you know. Per Ike’s comments about US law being the only law the US actually recognizes (with the process for ratifying international treaties handled explicitly in the US Constitution), not all of the Conventions have been agreed to by the US. Thus as far as we’re concerned, we are not bound by those specific provisions (nor, of course, are our opponents in any given conflict, except inasmuch as they themselves may have signed onto those provisions). Those portions of the Conventions that have been ratified by the Senate have been scrupulously observed in our recent military conflicts (much to the contrast of our opponents in-theatre, naturally; they who can’t even abide by the civilian-protecting clauses regarding lawful combatants, as separate from francs-tireurs!).

      1. George Turner

        I’m sure he’s refering to the way we completely ignored the provision that lets a signatory summarily execute illegal combatants, defined in part as anyone bearing arms against us without wearing a recognizable uniform or signifying insignia or arm band.

      2. ken anthony

        That’s the beauty of the Geneva conventions. It’s an agreement between combatants that I’ll do this if you do. It doesn’t actually require anybody to sign on to them, just to act accordingly.

        I would certainly cry no tear if we did execute illegal combatants. Publicly and in such a way that their friends take note. Frying them with bacon for example.

  6. ken anthony

    It’s not always a good idea to take your case to court. Sometimes you have to wait until the environment is right. Today nobody is actually mining asteroids which makes it hard to make a case against those that would make some kinds of arguments.

    To paraphrase Grace Hopper, it’s often easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission.

  7. ken anthony

    In an earlier thread, Titus said, “Call me when you are completely self sufficient in space.”

    This is a really good point that goes hand in hand with George’s comment about Wyoming.

    Law is often helpless in the face of action. This is why I talk about more than just a settlement charter, but about an industrial ecology that allows the least number of colonists to become self sufficient.

    For example, aluminum is more common than copper. Until you have enough copper, aluminum will allow you to become self sufficient without it for a time. You just have to use more aluminum than you would have of copper for a particular task.

    It turns out you need about fifty inter-related things to be self sufficient. These things not only allow you to repair those same things but to create anything and everything else. Which means a few dozen people with the needed skills are all you need to have a minimum requirement for self sufficient. Not the millions that others have claimed. After those first few dozen, everyone else that comes along just makes the work load lighter.

    Getting them there is the hard part. Legal issues can almost be ignored (although the idiocy should be fought.) Once there, the colonists have a good chance to grow. We should give them the best start we can since we are talking about a whole new world. That’s worth something. A whole solar system fill with activity is worth even more. We have to set the precedents now so the juvenile/elite lawmakers that think we hold all wealth in common can pound sand.

  8. Thomas Matula

    Unfortunately since actually mining the NEOs is a couple of decades in the future there will be plenty of time for the opposition to organize and push nonsense like the Moon Treaty or similar proposals. Hopefully the space advocate groups will organize to oppose them, instead of playing into their hands by pushing for space real property regimes…

    1. ken anthony

      You make a good point and then ya blows it.

      Elaborate on how real property rights plays into hands (considering there is no denying the OST prohibits sovereign claims.)

  9. George Turner

    In twenty or thirty years the discussion will have moved to whether the robots mining the asteroid are the beings who own it. The UN will still be trying to decide whether the permanent seats on the UN Security Council should be updated to reflect changes that have occured since the era of vacuum tubes and propellor driven fighter aircraft.

    Finally, let me end with two quotes from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who apprently spent a lot of time thinking about space.

    “The law does not exist in a vacuum.”

    That has 117,000 Google hits and is cited as a bedrock legal principle by countless law firms, law schools, legal scholars, and judges. Space is a vacuum.

    “We have adopted the Roman law to animals ferae naturae but the general tendency of our law is to favor appropriation. It abhors the absence of proprietary of possessory rights as a kind of vacuum.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Common Law”, page 97.

    So to Justice Holmes, not having property rights is like being tossed out of an airlock without a pressure suit. I think we can safely conclude that the US Supreme Court wil agree with Justice Holmes.

    And with that, I win the Internets.

    1. ken anthony

      George, you’re going to break your arm patting yourself on the back like that. Let us do it for ya. Well deserved winnah. The problem is the space between the ears of anybody calling for holding space in common.

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