My Opinio Juris colleague Chris Borgen has a post up commenting on a new paper by Richard Bilder on SSRN on legal issues involved in mining for Helium 3 on the Moon. The paper, which I’ve just read while on a plane, is fascinating, and Chris provides an excellent introduction to it (go there if you’d like to comment):
In addition to the idea of using helium-3 for [nuclear fusion] power on earth, it is also one of the most commonly posited potential fuel sources for crewed spacecraft to the asteroid belt and outer planets. This would open the belt up to the possibility of asteroid mining (if that turns out to be economically feasible) as well as crewed scientific exploration of the outer solar system. Bilder sets out various options including ratifying the present Moon Agreement, establishing an international lunar resource regime outside of the framework of the Moon Agreement, and setting up either an international organization or some other enterprise for mining lunar helium-3.
Underlying this is his argument that significant public or private investment in helium-3 mining would be predicated on a stable legal regime concerning the property and ownership issues of mined lunar resources. Thus, he argues, it is in the U.S.’s interest to take part in the construction of a lunar resource regime (be it treaty, international organization, or other policy option) sooner, rather than later.