Legal Status of the Oil and Gas Deposits Across National Frontiers



A crucial manifestation of sovereignty is the exclusive right of a state to exploit its natural resources in its national territories and their appurtenances and prevents other states from using such resources without its prior consent. The fugacious and emigrating nature of hydrocarbon brings to the fore the legal and in the meantime perplex question of the sovereignty or ownership and exploitation of oil and gas deposits across national frontiers. The specific feature of this material can be demonstrated by the fact that if either of the interested neighboring country starts drilling well in its border side of the joint deposit it can exploit gas and oil from the said common deposit. This raises another major question: how can this situation be legally managed? Under international law, there is no unique answer to this. On the one hand, there is the classic view which by laying emphasis on the principle of absolute sovereignty holds the view that in the absence of any treaty (be it general or specific) or a customary rule of international law on the exploitation of such deposits, states would have the option of making use of that part of the area which lies in their territory even if it might lead to the exploitation of the resources of the neighboring state. There is on the other hand, another different point of view which sees a joint deposit across frontiers as a common property and for its exploitation recommends a cooperation approach between the interested states. Models for efficient management of the common resources are discussed in this article.