It’s one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. A land of towering icebergs, vast valleys of snow and fascinating sea life, including emperor penguins, minke whales, leopard seals and albatrosses.

But it is also the world’s most isolated continent. With no human population standing in the way, Antarctica was once a prime target for mining companies eyeing off the continent for its mineral and profit potential.

 

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Gentoo Penguins - Yalour Islands Antarctica. Photo: istock 2016

In the mid-1970s, world leaders gathered to agree a “code of conduct” for mineral extraction in Antarctica. But ACF saw another way.

ACF’s Council formed an Antarctic Committee – working with scientists and biologists to draft a policy that recommended a complete ban on mineral exploration on the continent.

It took more than a decade of campaigning, but when mining in Antarctica was officially outlawed, former Director Geoff Mosley regarded the milestone as one of the greatest conservation-related victories Australia had seen.

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Seal sunbathing on the Antarctic Peninsula. Photo: Doug Gimesy 2012

ACF argued that “complete protection was desirable and achievable, when most groups were tending towards compromise,” Geoff said.

“We showed the way and argued the points to the end,” he said. “Not many groups can say in all honesty ‘we saved a continent’.”

The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1991, banned mining in the Antarctic region indefinitely and declared Antarctica a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.”

"Not many groups can say in all honesty we saved a continent" — Former ACF Director Geoff Mosley.

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Antarctic Peninsula. Photo: Doug Gimesy. 2015

Over 50 years, ACF and our community have had some incredible wins. We advocated against polluting projects like the Jabiluka uranium lease. We won World Heritage listing for the Reef and Kakadu. We protected places we all love, like the Franklin River, Antarctica and the Murray-Darling. We stood with Traditional Owners to hand back country and farmers to pioneer Landcare. We won billions for clean energy and led Australia's biggest climate march, helping to win a global pollution agreement.

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Paul Sinclair

Campaigns Director at the Australian Conservation Foundation.

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