The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 by 12 countries, prevents mining in Antarctica. As of 2014, 49 countries have joined in this pact. The treaty also protects the continent from disposal of nuclear waste and testing of nuclear weapons but encourages scientific research.
Antarctica is likely rich in natural resources, including coal, petroleum, iron ore and precious metals. However, the extreme temperatures keep the land covered in a thick coating of ice and make it difficult for humans to live in the area. The economic costs of mining the area help to reduce the desire of many countries to break the treaty. A provision in the current treaty allows for review of the mining policy after 2048.