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Space United States Politics

Asteroid Mining Bill Introduced In Congress To Protect Private Property Rights 181

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-take-the-sky-from-me dept.
MarkWhittington writes: "Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) announced on Thursday that he was introducing a bill along with Rep, Derek Kilmer (D-WA) called the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014 (PDF). The act is designed to protect the private property rights for entities mining asteroids and to otherwise encourage asteroid mining. The bill is in apparent reaction to efforts by companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries to locate and mine Earth approaching asteroids for their resources.

The crucial part of the short piece of legislation states that the resources mined from an asteroid would be the property of the entity undertaking the operation. This language gets around the provision of the Outer Space Treaty that says states are forbidden to establish national sovereignty over celestial bodies, which would be a prerequisite to the United States allowing a private entity to own an asteroid. It rather grants mineral rights to the asteroid, something the treaty does not mention. There is no enforcement mechanism in the event of a dispute with another country, however."
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Asteroid Mining Bill Introduced In Congress To Protect Private Property Rights

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  • Sure there is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Friday July 11, 2014 @08:08AM (#47430545) Homepage

    There is no enforcement mechanism in the event of a dispute with another country, however.

    Any company rich enough to get there can probably afford to hire people to defend its claim. Within a few years, they'll probably be rich enough to outright buy a company like Blackwater to serve as a small army to defend their claim if need be. That's the real danger here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @08:13AM (#47430569)

    This law merely codifies what has already developed as the consensus among significant space-faring nations.

    Since the world already accepts the premise that objects originating in outer space and brought to earth belong to those who retrieved them them (currently only Gov't agencies, but foreseeably private actors as well), and Article IX of the OST establishes a right to non-interference with outer space activities (outside of explicitly banned activities such as militarization, etc.), the lack of sovereignty or property rights over celestial bodies already presents no legal bar to their mineral exploitation.

    Of course, the flip side of this is that someone else could completely legally set up a mining operation on the other side of the asteroid, and provided they are not interfering with your own operations, there is really nothing you could do to enforce a "claim" in the sense that we do here on earth.

    As I read it, this introduced bill does nothing to change existing rights and duties under the current legal framework, but I suppose it does provide some assurance to prospective miners that, in the U.S. legal system at least, there will be no drastic changes to the current understanding.

    IANAL (yet) but have interned at NASA.

  • Wait, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday July 11, 2014 @08:14AM (#47430577) Homepage

    This language gets around the provision of the Outer Space Treaty that says states are forbidden to establish national sovereignty over celestial bodies, which would be a prerequisite to the United States allowing a private entity to own an asteroid. It rather grants mineral rights to the asteroid, something the treaty does not mention.

    So, if you as a country don't have the right to claim sovereignty over these celestial bodies ... then how on Earth (or space) do you have the authority to grant mineral rights? They're not your rights to give are they?

    This is using authority you don't have to grant mineral rights to corporations. Can the US grant mineral rights to nations they don't control too? Because that's awfully special.

    This just sounds like the typical ignore the intent of the treaty and make sure corporations have more avenues to make money without restriction.

    Always nice when lawmakers pass laws over stuff they really have no jurisdiction.

  • Jurisdiction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Friday July 11, 2014 @08:23AM (#47430609)

    Neither the US Congress, nor the United Nations, have any jurisdiction over anything outside LEO (Low Earth Orbit)

  • Re:thank goodness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @08:24AM (#47430617)

    And don't worry about no enforcement mechanism if another country disagrees...we can simply go to war with them to protect the "rights" of some corporation going against the good example the US set on the moon. Bravo!

    I for one, look forward to saying how bravely my children fought and died to protect the rights of some corporation to profit by mining some asteroid's natural resoruces. Be the first on your block to have a kid killed to fight for some corporate interest in space!

  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Friday July 11, 2014 @08:39AM (#47430689)
    Words fail me. Almost. I realize that Congress needs to do appear to be doing something, while avoiding all possible controversy, but this seems like a press release that should never have gone out. Perhaps if they concerned themselves less with asteroid mining and more with the immigration issue, pollution, healthcare, and any number of more important issues, Americans might have a smidgin more respect for their elected officials. This seems like an issue that could wait...or maybe they could let the interns handle it.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday July 11, 2014 @10:38AM (#47431613) Homepage

    Possession is 90% of the law, defense is the other 10%

    You know, I've seen this cited several times lately.

    Show us, exactly, where the law says this.

    It's illegal to be in possession of stolen goods. This is not grade 3.

    If you can get it and defend it, it's yours.

    So, you believe if I can take it from you by force, it's mine?

    Well, here's hoping someone takes your stuff from you, and then we'll see if you stand by that statement.

  • Re:Absurd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dywolf (2673597) on Friday July 11, 2014 @10:38AM (#47431617)

    same way they always have.
    first by force.
    then by tradition.
    otherwise known as "possession is 9/10's of the law".

    the only reason we haven't (yet) seen it in Antarctica and the treaty there has yet been observed and maintained, is there hasnt yet been a big push to produce or obtain resources down there (it's bloody cold, and the resources are under a very thick layer of ice). just wait til they decide it's time to get the oil or other BigMoneyItem out of the gruond down there, and then see how long that treaty lasts.

  • Re:Absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Friday July 11, 2014 @10:49AM (#47431707) Homepage Journal

    How can any nation grant right over something outside its sovereignty?

    This just codifies a long-standing common law treatment of international resources. Anyone from any country can take their ship into international waters and gather resources. Once the fish / kelp / crab / whatever is aboard the ship, it's their property. This just says we should treat space resources the same way.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WaffleMonster (969671) on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:34PM (#47432623)

    Possession is 90% of the law, defense is the other 10%

    Show us, exactly, where the law says this.

    LOL

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

    It's illegal to be in possession of stolen goods. This is not grade 3.

    Seem to remember quite recently Russians and Kurds grabbing land that doesn't exactly belong to them. They appear to be getting away with it while the whole world sits watches the theft take place.

    So, you believe if I can take it from you by force, it's mine?

    There are two distinct legal worlds. Confuse them at your peril.

    1. Intra-country world where rules are enforced by state having obtained more or less a monopoly on projection of violence within state borders to those who elect to disobey laws of said country.

    2. Rouge lawless world of inter-country relationships where no such monopoly exists. International systems like the UN wield no real power. In this world your ability to project violence or develop a coalition of states willing to project violence very much dictates what you can or can not get away with.

    To put it in even simpler terms when Ban Ki-moon pleads for the bloodshed in Gaza/Israel to stop he is asking ..nicely...... he is not ordering.

    When a judge orders you to pay Palimony the judge is not asking he is ordering you to pay under threat of violence.

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