Are the laws governing Antarctica legally binding? I heard that there's a mining ban in Antarctica that sets by the Antarctic Treaty, but I am wondering if it's legally binding and what would happen if a country started mining? Could such an action escalate to UN sanctions?

  • 2
    UN sanctions are very much a political question -- a majority of the 15 and no veto from any of the 5.
    – o.m.
    Jul 28, 2019 at 17:12
  • See this related question on Travel. The principle in play seems to be that signatories to the Antarctic Treaty are responsible for the actions of their citizens. The UN would only get involved if a country failed to fulfill these obligations, or if a non-treaty country did something flagrantly awful in Antarctica. Jul 28, 2019 at 18:42

1 Answer 1


First of all, as stated in this article about the mining ban, no, "there is no binding enforcement mechanism for those who may violate the Protocol".

Aside from that, there are currently only 54 parties to the Antarctic Treaty. So this treaty doesn't apply to the majority of countries in the world. If a non-party (e.g. Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, etc.) began mining in Antarctica it would be difficult to make the case that this treaty is legally binding on them.

The enforcement of international law in general is a complex topic. Here is a helpful introduction, a short article published by the American Society for International Law.

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