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the depths of the earth, extending from its surface to its center and including the crust, mantle, and core. In a narrow sense, the term “subsurface” (in Russian, nedra) refers to the upper part of the earth’s crust, within which the extraction of useful minerals (minerals suitable for industrial purposes) is possible at the present level of technology.
The earth’s subsurface contains mineral resources that are the basis for leading branches of the world economy. The amount of mineral substance in the subsurface and its quality, which is determined by the content of useful components, are ascertained through detailed geological exploration and analysis of deposits. Explored reserves of useful minerals are included in the balance of mineral raw material reserves.
In the USSR the legal status of the earth’s subsurface is regulated by the Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics on the Earth’s Subsurface (promulgated in 1975), as well as by other legislative acts of the USSR and the Union republics. The RSFSR Code on the Earth’s Subsurface was adopted in July 1971. The state has exclusive ownership of the earth’s subsurface. Any transactions violating the right of state ownership either directly or indirectly are void. State, cooperative, and public enterprises and institutions, as well as citizens, are granted only the right to use the earth’s subsurface. No economic or other activity is permitted in the earth’s subsurface without the authorization of the state, which grants and takes away the right to use sectors of the subsurface, establishes the rights and obligations of users, and exercises control and supervision over their activity. Users do not have the right to arbitrarily transfer the sectors of the subsurface allocated to them to other organizations or persons. Disciplinary, administrative, criminal, and civil accountability have been established for violation of the regulations for the use of the earth’s subsurface.
In the foreign socialist states, the earth’s subsurface is also owned by the state. However, the term “subsurface” is not used in law.
In the capitalist countries (for example, the USA, Great Britain, France, and Japan) the owner of a parcel of land has the right to use everything that is beneath the surface of his land for purposes unrelated to the extraction of mineral resources. Other organizations and persons may not use what lies below the surface of a parcel of land without the consent of the landowner. In the USA and Great Britain a landowner also has the right to ownership of the mineral resources found under his property, with the exception of certain minerals that belong to the state. This right may be transferred to any person without simultaneous transfer of the rights to the piece of land. The extraction of mineral resouces is supervised by the state. In the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and Japan the right to explore and exploit deposits of mineral resources belongs to the state, and exploration and exploitation are conducted with the state’s permission.