55. Memorandum NSC–U/DM–39A from the from the Chairman of the National Security Council Under Secretaries Committee (Rush) to President Nixon 1 2
- U.S. Policy on Antarctic Mineral Resources
In early 1973, you directed that a review of United States policy on Antarctic mineral resources be undertaken. A policy decision is needed now to enable us to begin mustering support for the U.S. position prior to a meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations in April 1975.
Since 1961, the Antarctic Treaty has provided a satisfactory framework for activity in Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty does not specifically address mineral exploitation, but it is clear that this is a permitted peaceful use. It is practically certain that there are mineral deposits in Antarctica, but their extent is unknown.
There are at present no known mineral resources that can be extracted economically in Antarctica and, with the possible exception of petroleum, no mineral exploitation appears feasible in the foreseeable future. There are also at present no known commercially-oriented mineralogy activities or planning by any Treaty or non-Treaty nation.
However, the subject of mineral resource exploration and exploitation was actively discussed at the 1972 Consultative Meeting of the Treaty parties and the issue will be on the agenda of the 1975 Consultative Meeting.
Several policy options regarding commercial exploration for and exploitation of Antarctic mineral resources have been examined in this review, including:
- —adopting a unilateral approach without any agreement with other countries in accordance with our legal right to engage in peaceful uses of Antarctica;
- —entering into agreements with states claiming Antarctic territory;
- —seeking an internationally agreed approach;
- —keeping options open by adopting no policy at this time;
- —supporting a limited moratorium on mineral resources activity.
Although some contentious issues would surely arise in the process of seeking an internationally agreed approach, the Under Secretaries Committee, with the exception noted below, believes this option would provide the U.S. with the best chance of gaining access to Antarctic resources, of reducing the possibility of significant international discord on this subject, and of protecting our security, political, scientific and conservation interests in Antarctica.
Except for the Federal Energy Office, the members of the Under Secretaries Committee recommend that you (1) authorize consultation with the Treaty parties and possibly others to gain acceptance of the concept that there should be an internationally agreed approach to the commercial exploration for and exploitation of Antarctic mineral resources, and (2) approve the policy statement attached to this Memorandum. Further steps in the development of an international approach will depend upon additional study within the U.S. Government, based in part upon the consultations, which study gill be forwarded for your decision.
An Executive Summary, three memoranda setting forth the Federal Energy Office position and a summary of agency inputs to the review are attached.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, OES/OA Files: Lot 90 D 234, Box 1, Antarctic Mineral Resources 1974, 1975. Confidential. Drafted by Yoder. Forwarded on April 29 by Grove to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the National Science Foundation, the Director of the Federal Energy Office, and the Secretaries of Defense, Interior, Commerce, and Transportation. Sections 4 and 5, covering Federal Energy Office comments and a summary of the Antarctic Mineral Resources Study, have not been published.↩
- The memorandum considered U.S. policy options concerning extraction of Antarctic mineral resources and recommended consultations with other parties to the Antarctic Treaty.↩
- Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, USSR, UK and US.↩