Despite current comment in the media, Australia’s proclamation of its extended continental shelf doesn’t signify new asserts in Antarctica and doesn’t contravene the Antarctic Treaty.
Together with Australia hosting Antarctic Treaty meetings in Hobart at mid-June 2012, it’s timely to check at the way the Antarctic Treaty and the United Nations Law of the Sea intersect on Australia’s current actions.
What Has Australia Done?
The proclamation clarifies the 11 million square kilometres of seabed over which Australia can practice exclusive rights to seabed resources. The region of extended continental shelf defined is higher than the land mass of Australia.
Australia managed to produce this proclamation since it had fulfilled its responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In 2004, inside the 10-year deadline determined by this Convention, Australia, the next nation after Russia and Brazil, filed information demonstrating its extended continental shelf into the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).
The current proclamation by Australia reflects the thought of the CLCS. It lawfully defines the region within which Australia can work out rights into its long continental shelf.
The figure also reveals those regions between Australia and Indonesia and East Timor, and north-east of Norfolk Island, in which delimitation between Australia and other nations remains under active diplomatic conversation.
Two regions of Australia’s extended continental shelf stretch south of 60 degrees South to the Antarctic Treaty area.
The biggest of those areas is that the Elongated continental shelf originating from the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands between Australia and South Africa. Macquarie Island is a part of the state of Tasmania.
Can This Proclamation Battle With The Antarctic Treaty?
The brief answer is no. However, the proclamation of Australia’s extended continental shelves about Heard Island and Macquarie Island are new claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica nor improvement of an present claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica.
The Territory of Heard Island and the McDonald Islands, and Macquarie Island lie beyond the Antarctic Treaty area. The elongated continental shelves they create under the Law of the Sea appear beyond Antarctica and exist due to Australia’s unchallenged sovereignty to such areas.
They extend in the Antarctic Treaty area is an issue of geography, not law. Anyway, the region of continental shelf isn’t a territorial claim, it’s a place where faith could be exercised since a territorial claim exists on property.
Does This Proclamation Imply That Australia Can Mine At The Antarctic Treaty Area?
The brief reply to this query is no. Australia has enacted national legislation to fulfil its own duties under the Madrid Protocol, including the prohibition on exploration.
Australia couldn’t mine at the Antarctic Treaty area on these pieces of its extended continental shelf without breaking its international obligations.
However, Australia could, as an instance, utilize its abilities derived from the proclamation of its long continental shelf to prevent countries that are not signatories to the Madrid Protocol from participating in mineral actions in these regions.
Can Other Nations Be Amazed By What Australia Has Done?
Many nations will be attending the Antarctic Treaty meetings in Hobart at mid-June 2012. However they will not be taken aback: there aren’t any diplomatic or legal surprises in Australia’s proclamation.
Australia submitted the information necessary to specify its extended continental shelf into the UN’s CLCS on November 16 2004.
Australia had engaged in wide-ranging diplomatic talks about how to deal with the information it collected from the poll of the elongated continental shelf originating out of the Australian Antarctic Territory (ie in the continent of Antarctica, maybe not in the rest of Australia). Other suburban states were well-prepared for Australia’s entry.
At a well-orchestrated move, Australia asked the CLCS to never test for the time being the Antarctic data. The diplomatic remarks from a Antarctic Treaty Parties represented the talks among Antarctic Treaty parties in the lead up to Australia’s entry.
There’s not anything at Australia’s proclamation of 24 May 2012 that’s surprising or new.