(EN) Utilization of Natural Resources in Outer Space: Social License to Operate as an Alternative Source of Both Legality and Legitimacy

Martin Švec, Petr Boháček, Nikola Schmidt

In recent years, utilization of space resources has become an increasingly important topic. However, insufficient legal framework effectively discourages private investors from making any substantial investments in extraterrestrial mining. Although there are several ongoing initiatives aimed at establishing an international legal framework, either under the auspices of the UN COPUOS or beyond (The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group), the slow pace of these international deliberations often encourages private companies to start thinking about alternatives sources of legitimacy. As a response to significant uncertainty surrounding legality and conditions under which space resources can be utilized, some private investors pressed national governments to take some action. Against this backdrop, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act and Luxembourg Law on Exploration and Use of Space Resources were enacted. Nonetheless, national legislations can never bypass the lack of an international legal framework applicable to an area beyond national jurisdictions, and compatibility of national legislations granting the property rights in space resources has been explicitly and frequently questioned by various delegations at the UN COPUOS and legal scholars. In this context, the paper explores a theoretical applicability of the Social License to Operate (SLO) concept to the utilization of space resources. The authors discuss whether SLO can serve as an alternative source of legitimacy and may satisfy the vague requirements set forth by the Outer Space Treaty.