Australia

Australia re-commits to keeping Antarctic free of mining, military

Emperor penguin chicks at the Snow Hill Island colony, on the northern Antarctic Peninsula. Source: British Antarctic Survey

Signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, including Australia, have renewed their 60-year commitment to keep the continent free of military and mining activities.

More than 50 countries, including Australia, have renewed their pledge to protect the Antarctic's environment and keep it free of military activities and mining on the 60th anniversary of the original signing of the Antarctic Treaty.

More than 370 representatives, experts from civil society and observers from international organizations have been gathering in Prague since July 2, according to the Czech Foreign Ministry.

Key topics included the effects of climate change, growing tourism and the dangers of microplastic pollution on the polar region.

The conference's final declaration, adopted on Thursday, was backed by 54 countries. It promised to improve co-operation between members and protect the Antarctic's natural environment. All countries have also agreed to refrain from mining for minerals on the continent.

A group of explores extract blue ice blocks near the Glaciar Union camp in the Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica, last year.
A group of explores extract blue ice blocks near the Glaciar Union camp in the Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica, last year.
EPA

The statement underlines that the Antarctic can be used "only for peaceful purposes, free from measures of a military nature, guaranteeing freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation to that end, and designating Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science".

The Antarctic is the largest ice mass on earth. The treaty's membership has grown steadily from the 12 countries that first signed it in 1959, among them Australia.

The next summit will be in Finland from May 25 to June 4 of next year.

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