Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Seven Canadian international space policy and law experts have written a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe, seen here on Jan. 11, 2020, Champagne asking Canada instead to back the development of a multilateral treaty among as many countries as possible to set uniform rules.

DAVE CHAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Canadian government is being urged not to endorse a U.S. approach to mining in space that experts warn could result in countries setting their own rules for extraterrestrial resource extraction.

Seven Canadian international space policy and law experts have written a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne asking Canada instead to back the development of a multilateral treaty among as many countries as possible to set uniform rules.

They’re responding to an executive order signed April 6 by U.S. President Donald Trump that rejects the idea of outer space as an asset that is outside of national jurisdiction.

Story continues below advertisement

“Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons,” the Trump executive order states.

The Canadian experts say space must be regulated internationally – similarly to Antarctica or the world’s seabeds – and all countries, include non-space-faring ones, get a say in decision-making.

The alternative, they warn, could be a splintered approach where companies conduct flag-of-convenience resource extraction in space under whichever country has the least onerous rules.

One real attraction, experts say, is ice and water-bearing minerals that could be used to produce fuel in space, a potentially cheaper option than carrying terrestrial fuel that must escape Earth’s gravity.

One of the signatories to the letter, Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia and co-director of The Outer Space Institute, said space mining may not be a reality in 10 years but is likely to be taking place within 20 years.

Poorly regulated space mining could hurt Earth, he warns.

“Space mining is going to create debris because you are mining in a vacuum with very low gravity and because these asteroids will be passing close to Earth you could get streams of debris taking out satellites,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Mining could also change the trajectory of asteroids. “In a worst-case scenario you could create an Earth impact situation.”

The experts note the Trump executive order mandates the U.S. State Department to seek support from other national governments for the U.S. position, including on a bilateral basis and without recognizing the need for an international agreement. “For this reason, it seems likely that the State Department will soon approach Global Affairs Canada on this issue,” the experts write to Mr. Champagne.

“There has, however, been a long-standing consensus among states that the recovery and use of space resources should be governed by an international agreement, as has been done in other 'areas beyond national jurisdiction’ where resources are recognized as constituting ‘global commons,’ for example the deep seabed, international airspace and the radio frequency spectrum,” the letter says.

“The current U.S. Administration takes the unprecedented position that outer space is not a global commons. It favours a unilateral approach to governing the recovery and use of space resources. This position is shared by only one other state, namely Luxembourg.”

Other signatories to the letter addressed to Mr. Champagne included William (Mac) Evans, former president of the Canadian Space Agency; David Kendall, a former chair of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space; and Marie Lucy Stojak, the present chair of the Canadian Space Advisory Committee.

A spokesman for Mr. Champagne said Canada will work not only with the U.S. but also through multilateral channels as well.

Story continues below advertisement

“We have long held that the peaceful use of space and space exploration should be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries,” Adam Austen, the minister’s deputy director of communications said. “For that reason, we will continue to work with the U.S. and other international partners on the issue of the use of space resources on a bilateral basis as well as through relevant multilateral bodies.”

With a report from Reuters

Follow related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies