The twenty-first century has seen a significant expansion in the commercial space sector. Many of these companies have focused on extracting and exploiting mineral deposits that may be found on celestial bodies. A number of US-based companies have promulgated ambitious plans to build the infrastructure to enable the mining of asteroids for precious resources in order to use and sell them on Earth. Motivated not by a desire to explore, but by the promise of vast mineral and energy resources, these companies represent a new paradigm in space exploration. But with promise of a revolution in access to resources also brings with it a number of risks and issues relating to liability.
This chapter examines the current legal and policy position on the exploitation of extra-terrestrial minerals. The discussion begins by highlighting the legal issues in respect of regulating space mining and how the risks which are associated with this area are currently managed. The discussion then assesses competing suggestions for reform of this area and evaluates these solutions, both in terms of the legal issues in respect of ownership and the broader policy issues of managing potential future risks to humanity from space mining.