SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

LEGAL STATUS OF METEORITES FOUND

Who is the owner of a meteorite found in SA? Is it the property of the person on whose land it is located when first found? Is it even legal to own a meteorite in SA? According to our respondents (this is just paraphrased hearsay and not legal advice):

 

The law protecting meteorites falls under the same law as the National Monuments. To summarize, the meteor belongs to the person whose property it falls on. It is regarded as a National Monument. It may only be moved if in compliance with the law, stating

 

... (1) for scientific research, whereupon the owner must give written permission, after it has been weighed, and a licence issued,

... (2) for safe keeping at a National Museum, again with necessary documentation.

 

Trading/dealing or disfiguring such an asset is punishable by law with a fine not exceeding kR20 or 200 days imprisonment. To be caught with such illegal objects incurs the same penalty. Written permission from the relevant official is a safeguard. Trade in meteorites is legal in the USA and certain other countries, and presumably the acquistions could be brought here if accompanied by proper certification. You could check with the Department of Minerals and Energy in Pretoria for the latest position, at postmaster@mepta.pwv.gov.za.