This first edition of SGAC x ECSL Model UN COPUOS will revolve around the topic of space mining. Space mining comprises the exploration, exploitation and utilization of natural resources to be found in the Moon, other planets and near-Earth asteroids (NEAs); primarily, what can be encountered is a rich diversity of useful materials such as minerals, gases (mainly Helium-3), metals and water. This activity is envisaged to be key to the future of space exploration, as it may sustain human life in the long term by providing energy and raw materials – manufactured from space mining findings – and, consequently, it may enable the future and deeper exploration of outer space.

In hindsight, harvesting space resources has proved its great potential, as evidenced by the samples and data brought back from the reiterative expeditions to the Moon and NEAs by space powers like the United States, Japan, the former Soviet Union and, most recently, China; which proved the mineral wealth of lunar rocks and dust, and showed the existence of large deposits of water ice in lunar poles.

In regard to this issue, we expect participants to tackle extremely relevant topics to the sustainable development of outer space, including:

  • The lawful character of space resources extraction and commercialization, taking into consideration that Article II of the Outer Space Treaty – the main international legal instrument in International Space Law – establishes the non-appropriation principle, specifying nothing concerning the validity of the exploitation of space resources, which has been interpreted in different ways according to each nation’s best interest.

  • The potential environmental impact of asteroid mining, especially with respect to the contamination it may entail both at space and back on Earth – if the materials are brought back –, and the possible ways to translate these regulatory concerns into a legal text.

  • The universality of space resources: how can we ensure that the free exploration of outer space is conducted for the benefit and in the interests of all States, and not just for few? How do we avoid conflicts of interests between countries?

  • The regulation of space mining, paying special attention to how this topic should be legally addressed at both national and international levels and the body that could be entrusted with this task.