57. Guidelines for Consultations on Antarctic Mineral Resources1 2

Guidelines for Consultations on Antarctic Mineral Resources

The following guidelines are designed to secure maximum information on the views of other States and to encourage other States to promote an international solution compatible with U.S. interests.

The United States should say nothing publicly that would indicate that we consider any kind of legal regime for the exploitation of Antarctic resources to be preferable to any other.
The U.S. team should represent these consultations as part of an overall discussion of Antarctic issues. On the specific question of mineral resource exploration and exploitation, emphasis will lie with the “information gathering” aspect of the consultations. On the other hand, for tactical reasons we should indicate a strong USG interest in the area. We should seek to determine the extent of government and private sector interest in Antarctic mineral resources. We will want to know at the outset the current view governments take of such activities within the Treaty area. Are governments aware of any new approaches by individuals or companies concerning licenses for commercial activities in the area? If they have been approached for licenses, what has been the response in these cases? Have there been other indications of private interest in the legal status of activities conducted in the area? Are Treaty governments now considering the question of legal order that would be applicable to exploration and exploitation? Do they have a preference for a specific kind of approach? Would they be likely to encounter pressure to take unilateral action? What legislative or political constraints govern their policy toward a legal order for Antarctic resource exploration and exploitation?
In private discussions, the U.S. representatives should indicate that the U.S. will not agree to any regime which does not clearly recognize a right for the United States and others to recover mineral resources from all areas of Antarctica. Consistent with our other international positions on resources, we would not wish to discover the finding and development of new sources of energy and other raw materials. In our view, increased availability of resources on the world market favors all nations.
The United States delegation should not raise any questions relating to the Law of the Sea negotiations. If asked’ privately, they should say that the U.S. has not taken any final decisions on the question. However, with respect to offshore seabed mineral resources, it is our view that the resources of the continental margin and other offshore areas south of 60° south latitude are subject to the regime of the high seas. It follows that offshore mineral resources in Antarctica may be subject to the international seabed regime now being negotiated in the Law of the Sea conference, or alternatively, national approach to deep seabed mineral recovery under the freedom of the high seas, or a special arrangement in the Antarctic context, among other options.
We should not specifically mention an “international regime,” “administration,” or other words that would imply a need for mechanism at a later time. We should imply that if other nations seem ready to talk, we are ready to listen to their ideas.
In response to questions with respect to a moratorium, the U.S. representatives may state that we continue to be opposed to a moratorium. For the time being, as a matter of policy the U.S. will also oppose actions by any nation for the purpose of mineral exploration or exploitation and hope that others will do the same. We will of course keep this policy under review in the light of actions of other nations as well as other relevant facts.
All discussions of this question should be placed squarely in the context that the United States maintains full support for the Antarctic Treaty and its principles, especially in this case the preservation of the environment, scientific cooperation, and avoidance of significant international conflict. We believe that exploitation of resources is a peaceful use of the area.
The U.S. team will take into account in utilizing these Guidelines the previously expressed attitude of the government consulted toward Antarctic mineral exploration.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, L/OES Files: Lot 98 D 419, Antarctica, 8th Consultative/I. Confidential.
  2. The guidelines directed negotiators to secure the views of other states while reiterating fundamental U.S. principles.