During the 1980s, the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) faced intense international scrutiny. A new power bloc of developing countries, utilising the language of colonialism and using the United Nations as one of their main platforms, called into question the legitimacy of the ATS. The developing countries’ lobby also challenged apartheid South Africa’s membership of the Antarctic Treaty. One of the main driving forces behind these tensions was widely acknowledged to be resources, living and mineral and the rights of access to them. The debate on mineral exploration and extraction culminated in the Convention on the Regulation of the Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA). Preparations started in the mid-1970s, CRAMRA was adopted in 1988 but it never went into force. This article investigates some of the historical complexities and contingencies involved in the CRAMRA process, using South Africa as a case study. It looks at how Gondwanaland–broadly conceived–surfaced in the debates in terms of geology as well as geopolitics. “Gondwanaland” highlighted the proximity of South Africa to Antarctica, and the shared geological formations between parts of southern Africa and Antarctica implied shared mineral potential. In South Africa, debates about Antarctic mineral resources and the Antarctic Treaty were invested with concerns about the apartheid state’s status as pariah state on the one hand, and its “first world”, anti-communist status on the other. Diplomats were anxious for South Africa to maintain its membership of the Treaty, one of the few multilateral bodies that still welcomed the country. In public, fears about a “third world grab” in the Antarctic resonated with the “total onslaught” rhetoric of the South African police state.
2013. 72-93 p.