I. INTRODUCTION

1990 is the start of a critical decade for the Antarctic. While some nations still clearly see the continent as a potential source of mineral resources, others wish to see it preserved, in perpetuity, to safeguard the scientific and aesthetic values which the Antarctic environment provides. Although those of so-called " practical" inclination often devalue such attitudes, it is clear that at least part of the demand for a new approach in Antarctica comes from the fact that this continent is seen, by many, as our last opportunity to deal with a large part of this planet in a more enlightened manner. The treatment of Antarctica is seen as symbolically important as well as specifically and intrinsically important. Thus, at issue is more than just the fate of the Antarctic. In June 1988, after six years of negotiations, the Antarctic Treaty Parties signed the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA). Critical elements of that Convention - relating to liability - remained (and remain) unresolved, but the parties seemed set upon a course of minerals exploitation in Antarctica, notwithstanding widespread opposition on environmental grounds. Last year, however, the Parties" consensus was shattered. In May 1989 Australia announced that it did not intend to ratify CRAMRA [1], and this was followed in August by a joint Franco Australian statement of opposition to mining in Antarctica [2]. Belgium and Italy later followed suit [3] and more recently other countries have to a greater or lesser degree moved away from the minerals convention. The Federal Republic of Germany, clearly a state with the technological and economic ability to operate in Antarctica (and long seen as a prime pro-mining state), has adopted a "wait and see" attitude. In Poland and Spain, officials have publicly expressed doubts about CRAMRA [4].

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