Tektite Ownership and Export Laws

 
On this page I make a start in clarifying laws regarding the ownership and export of tektites. Please note that I am not a lawyer – before disturbing a tektite find, carrying out any works on a specimen or exporting/importing any tektite you should do your own research and be satisfied that you are within your rights. I accept no responsibility for any losses or legal difficulties surrounding advice found on this page. The information found on this page is correct to my knowledge and is meant as a guide only for your further research. If you have any additional information I would be very grateful if you could forward it to me at aubrey@tektites.co.uk.

Being a very keen tektite collector, and a responsible one I hope, I want to abide by the law. It can, however, be a notoriously difficult subject. In some countries, as meteorite collectors have found to their detriment, the law is not so much defined on paper as by the interpretations of individuals in power. Tektites might be covered/included in various laws regarding cultural heritage, cultural property, mining laws, meteorite laws, mineral laws and even water resource laws! Tektites are very specialized. Are tektites meteorites? – No, but in some countries they may be considered as such. Are tektites Archeological items? – No, but they may be considered as such. If the tektite has been worked into a tool by ancient man then it is likely covered by other laws. Are tektites cultural property? Well I would say no, they are rock – nothing to do with culture unless crafted into something else, but you’ll find that very often they are considered as cultural property. Even if the word ‘tektite’ is not mentioned specifically you may be caught out by other laws if the official, who will often be uneducated in this field, considers them to fall in a certain bracket.

For me, the laws are there to protect important museum pieces, which should belong in the country of origin. I think the best laws are ones that say ‘You can hunt, find and own tektites as a private individual on private land, but you require an export permit to remove them from the country (and this should be readily available and readily granted to all but the very unique specimens)’. Problems may arise if there is zero protection of the nation’s natural history artifacts, leaving some countries ‘raped’ of their history. Similarly, and probably worse, when laws are too strict, the country is equally devoid of its Natural History. If, for instance, you are not allowed to own a tektite then a) nobody will look for them – they will remain in the desert/buried or be discarded to the benefit of nobody b) if found they will likely be kept secret or have location details falsified in order to hold onto the specimen.

The ownership of a tektite is also often interesting. One must study the local laws. Typically the land owner will own the tektite, but maybe there is an agreement with the finder. In some cases the land owner is effectively the owner, but strictly speaking if he does not have mining rights he may not own the minerals on the land – this is rarely (if ever) enforced though for low value items such as tektites. In this article I will not go into ownership, beyond whether the state automatically owns the tektite or not. Land laws and by-laws are too complex, public vs private land, mining rights, finder vs land owner, protected sites. You’ll have to figure this out in the area you are searching, generally so long as you have asked permission from the land owner, written is a good idea (even hand written) with agreement on who keeps the finds, you should be covered in most places.


Australia – Commonwealth of Australia

Australia summary: You can own and export tektites (which are not considered as meteorites) freely in Australia, except for in the Northern Territory. In the NT the state owns all tektites found after 12 July 2000.

Links:

Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 

 

Northern Territory

Summary of the law regarding tektites: In the Northern Territory of Australia Meteorites Act 1988 the term meteorite includes tektites. Meteorites/tektites found in the Northern Territory after 12 July 2000 belong to the state (Museums and Art Galleries Board of the Northern Territory). Tektites found outside of the Northern Territory or before the 12 July 2000 do not belong to the state, but the onus is on the owner to prove this is the case – i.e. if you can’t prove this then your tektites may be taken by the state. The state will compensate the property owner the value of the specimen, which is recoverable in court.

Comments: I’m not sure how enforceable this law is without shutting down the borders of the Northern Territory to catch them tektite smugglers! I’m betting the find rate of tektites goes up in neighboring states, with the sad loss of scientific data. This kind of very strict (and unenforceable) law sadly normally has the opposite effect to that desired – tektites will no longer be found in the Northern Territory – they will be carried (albeit illegally) to another state or will be discarded as they cannot be legally collected and it is simply not worth taking to a Museum (and simply not worth going to court for the small value of the tektite).

Links:

Northern Territory of Australia Meteorites Act 1988

Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986

Contacts: Northern Territory Department of Resources: +61 8 8999 5511 email: info.dor@nt.gov.au 

 

Western Australia

Summary of the law regarding tektites: In the of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, Protection made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, meteorites are protected and tektites are not mentioned. I made some enquiries. On March 16, 2011 I had an email from Movable.Heritage@arts.gov.au, Program Officer, Cultural Property and Gifts, Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 33 Allara Street, Canberra stating that ‘Tektites are not considered meteorites under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, and therefore do not require permits from us for export’. On February 04, 2008 I had an email from a professor in the WA Museum stating ‘Because they are not meteorites, tektites are not covererd [sic] by meteorite legistion [sic] in WA. They were also removed from the control lists of the Federal Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (1986) some years ago. In effect there is no impediment to the export of tektites from Australia’. I understand that statement to be correct except for the Northern Territory due to the Northern Territory of Australia Meteorites Act 1988. Also it is noteworthy that any tektite valued in excess of AUD 10,000 would be a Class B object and require an export permit (although at the time of writing not even the rarest tektite would be valued greater than this). It is also noteworthy that any tektite worked, associated or used by people would also potentially be a Class B object and require an export permit.

Comments: None

Links:

Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 

 

South Australia

Summary of the law regarding tektites: In the South Australian Museum Act 1976 ‘meteorite means any naturally occurring object that has fallen to earth from beyond the atmosphere, but does not include a tektite’. Thus, tektites are not covered by the South Australian Museum Act 1976.
In the of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, Protection made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, meteorites are protected and tektites are not mentioned. I made some enquiries. On March 16, 2011 I had an email from Movable.Heritage@arts.gov.au, Program Officer, Cultural Property and Gifts, Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 33 Allara Street, Canberra stating that ‘Tektites are not considered meteorites under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, and therefore do not require permits from us for export’. On February 04, 2008 I had an email from a professor in the WA Museum stating ‘Because they are not meteorites, tektites are not covererd [sic] by meteorite legistion [sic] in WA. They were also removed from the control lists of the Federal Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (1986) some years ago. In effect there is no impediment to the export of tektites from Australia’. I understand that statement to be correct except for the Northern Territory due to the Northern Territory of Australia Meteorites Act 1988. Also it is noteworthy that any tektite valued in excess of AUD 10,000 would be a Class B object and require an export permit (although at the time of writing not even the rarest tektite would be valued greater than this). It is also noteworthy that any tektite worked, associated or used by people would also potentially be a Class B object and require an export permit.

Comments: Sensible tektite laws which will encourage collection of tektites. In fact slightly stricter laws might even be beneficial to prevent export of super-rare pieces such as the largest tektite ever found. Laws which allow ownership but can prevent export are respected and greatly benefit the country.

Links:

Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 

 

Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania

Summary of the law regarding tektites: In the of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, Protection made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, meteorites are protected and tektites are not mentioned. I made some enquiries. On March 16, 2011 I had an email from Movable.Heritage@arts.gov.au, Program Officer, Cultural Property and Gifts, Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 33 Allara Street, Canberra stating that ‘Tektites are not considered meteorites under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, and therefore do not require permits from us for export’. On February 04, 2008 I had an email from a professor in the WA Museum stating ‘Because they are not meteorites, tektites are not covererd [sic] by meteorite legistion [sic] in WA. They were also removed from the control lists of the Federal Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (1986) some years ago. In effect there is no impediment to the export of tektites from Australia’. I understand that statement to be correct except for the Northern Territory due to the Northern Territory of Australia Meteorites Act 1988. Also it is noteworthy that any tektite valued in excess of AUD 10,000 would be a Class B object and require an export permit (although at the time of writing not even the rarest tektite would be valued greater than this). It is also noteworthy that any tektite worked, associated or used by people would also potentially be a Class B object and require an export permit.

Comments: I am not aware of any state laws affecting tektites, but you may wish to check with your state museum.

Links:

Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 

 

New South Wales

Summary of the law regarding tektites: I contacted the Movable Heritage people and they were not aware of any export laws for tektites in NSW.
In the of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, Protection made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, meteorites are protected and tektites are not mentioned. I made some enquiries. On March 16, 2011 I had an email from Movable.Heritage@arts.gov.au, Program Officer, Cultural Property and Gifts, Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 33 Allara Street, Canberra stating that ‘Tektites are not considered meteorites under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, and therefore do not require permits from us for export’. On February 04, 2008 I had an email from a professor in the WA Museum stating ‘Because they are not meteorites, tektites are not covererd [sic] by meteorite legistion [sic] in WA. They were also removed from the control lists of the Federal Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (1986) some years ago. In effect there is no impediment to the export of tektites from Australia’. I understand that statement to be correct except for the Northern Territory due to the Northern Territory of Australia Meteorites Act 1988. Also it is noteworthy that any tektite valued in excess of AUD 10,000 would be a Class B object and require an export permit (although at the time of writing not even the rarest tektite would be valued greater than this). It is also noteworthy that any tektite worked, associated or used by people would also potentially be a Class B object and require an export permit.

Comments: You may wish to check with your state museum.

Links:

Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 1987, Statutory Rules 1987 No. 149 as amended, made under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986

Contacts: New South Wales Department of Primary Industries: ph +61 2 6391 3100, minres.webcoordinator@dpi.nsw.gov.au 

 

Austria – Republic of Austria

Summary of the law regarding tektites: I have not yet followed this up. I am not aware of any collection or export issues of Moldavites from Austria.

Comments: Check with your National Museum.

 

Belize

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. 
 

Brunei – State of Brunei

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. 
 

Burma – Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. 
 

Cambodia – Kingdom of Cambodia

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. I am not aware of any export issues. 
 

Canada

Summary of the law regarding tektites: The land owner owns the tektite. Tektites recovered from Canadian soil may be exported, but you require an export permit regardless of value. There are no restrictions on tektites in Canada that were found outside of the territory.

Comments: Let me know if you find a tektite strewn field in Canada.

Links:

MIAC-CCMI Exporting rocks, minerals, meteorites and tektites from Canada 

 

China – People's Republic of China

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. Tektites from China are readily available, suggestive that there is no law against ownership or export or that laws are not enforced. 
 

Côte d'Ivoire – Republic of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. Given the current political situation I would consider it unlikely that any foreigners will be collecting here. I highly doubt any laws exist to protect tektites. 
 

Czech Republic

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Considering the widespread market for Moldavites I am sure that there are no laws controlling the export of Moldavites in the Czech Republic. One should be cautious, however, and buy from reputable dealers as many fake African /Thai / Chinese Moldavites are in circulation - some are obvious fakes and some even fool me - they may be re-melted and re-formed low value Moldavites! 

In the Czech Republic one can legally collect tektites from the top-most 10cm of soil. I suspect you should ask the land owner before going on the land, but there are so many collectors and nobody seems to bother asking the land owner - I think they just turn a blind eye as they can't stop it. Many of the finest and unbroken tektites are mined illegally from pits in forested areas and sometimes even in a field in the middle of crops. Some legal mining does take place, although I understand this to be limited - most the high quality Moldavites you see on the market are likely illegally mined. Laws are not harsh though - I understand a 20 Euro fine for the first time you are caught and then a 100 Euro fine for the second time. Within 2 hours of being caught the miners are often back in their illegal pit! Why wouldn't they be when they can earn about 4000 Euros a month (although this figure depends on luck and may be much less) Moldavite mining compared with 1000 Euros a month for bar work.
 

Egypt – Arab Republic of Egypt

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Libyan Desert Glass, from Egypt, is widely available. So far as I know there is no law against its export, but I may be wrong. If there is a law then it is widely flouted.

The buying, selling, and ownership of Egyptian artifacts, including those composed of Libyan Desert Glass, which have been illegally exported from Egypt since 1970 is regarded by both the U.S. Customs Service and the Egyptian government as a crime. You can own LDG artifacts exported from Egypt before 1970, although these are few and far between.

Although the vast majority of the LDG strewn field is in Egypt, some LDG may exist in Libya. Many artifacts may be transported in the desert and sold in Libya as coming from Libya. Whether they come from Libya or Egypt is debatable. 
 

Germany – Federal Republic of Germany

Summary of the law regarding tektites: I have not yet followed this up. I am not aware of any collection or export issues of Moldavites from Germany.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. 
 

Indonesia – Republic of Indonesia

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. Tektites from Indonesia are commonly available, suggestive that there is no law against ownership or export. 
 

Laos – Lao People's Democratic Republic

Summary of the law regarding tektites: Limited data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. I understand, although I have no documentation, that tektites are protected by law and cannot be exported without a permit. There is certainly a list of minerals (somewhere!) that are protected or restricted from export. Tektites from Laos are, however, commonly brought across the border to NE Thailand. These include Muong Nong-type tektites. From here they are sold on as Thailandites or simply Laos tektites, sometimes with no attempt to hide their illegality.

Links:

On the Promulgation of the Mining Law

On the Promulgation of the Law on Water and Water Resources (tektites may be considered as water resources!)

 

Malaysia

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. I’ve found a National Heritage Act 2005, although this does not specifically mention tektites (or meteorites).

Links:

National Heritage Act 2005, Malaysia 

 

Philippines – Republic of the Philippines

Summary of the law regarding tektites: Tektites can be collected and owned in the Philippines, but may not be exported without a permit.

In Presidential Decree No. 374 January 10, 1974, amending certain sections of Republic Act No.4846, otherwise known as the “Cultural Properties Preservation and Protaction Act” tektites are classified as Cultural Properties. In theory a piece could be elevated to an Important Cultural Properties or National Cultural Treasures. It is unlawful to export tektites without previous registration of the objects with the National Museum and a written permit from the Director of the National Museum. If you offer a tektite for sale it must first be registered with the National Museum and offered to the Museum for three months. Dealers in tektites must have a license to deal in cultural properties from the National Museum. Tektites should have an export permit and other documentation is required to get the export permit. Please view the links for further details.

Comments: I support this law as it makes good sense. It allows collection and ownership but controls export of scientifically important specimens. That’s the theory – with a budget of PHP 100,000 (a little over USD 2,000) what do you think happens? I emailed the National Museum and I get no reply. Sadly it is a free-for-all. If you try to post a tektite you will sometimes be prevented from doing so (mainly out of uncertainty), but not often. If you transport tektites by air you may be stopped (particularly if you have very large quantities which attract questions), but with small quantities it’s not likely and besides most people do not know what a tektite is. Sometimes transportation of larger quantities of tektites within the Philippines (by boat) has even been stopped, although I am not aware of any law regarding ownership and movement of tektites within the Philippine territory. Sad really, one of the better thought out of the tektite laws, but extremely poorly enforced. Even if you wish to follow this law, you will probably find it impossible to do so. So far as I can see there is zero control of tektites and their export from the Philippines and sadly scientific and cultural important items are lost. The protection of cultural property is largely left to the morals of the dealer/collectors and in some cases these are exceedingly lacking for small quantities of cash. I hope that as the Philippines become more developed the essence of this law will serve as a good foundation for the nation.

Links:

Presidential Decree No. 374 January 10, 1974, amending certain sections of Republic Act No.4846, otherwise known as the “Cultural Properties Preservation and Protaction Act”

Guidelines for Licensing, Registration, Permit to Export Cultural Properties, Donations/Tax Incentives, Permit to Explore/Excavate (for clienteles covered by R.A. 4846 as amended by P.D. 374) 
 

Thailand – Kingdom of Thailand

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information.

Comments: Check with your National Museum. I understand from the great deal of tektites on the market that it is legal to collect and export tektites – if this is not the case then the law is not enforced.  

 

United States – United States of America

Summary: A find is owned by the land owner. A find on federal government property therefore belongs to the government and, under an interpretation of the 1906 "Antiquities Act," meteorites (I assume tektites also) found on federal lands belong to the Smithsonian Institution.

Comments: Check with your State Museum. I do not believe there are any laws controlling export of tektites from the US.

Links:

Antiquities Act of 1906

Bureau of Land Management: Rockhounding on Public Land

 

Vietnam – Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Summary of the law regarding tektites: No data/not yet studied. Contact me if you have information. 

Comments: Check with your National Museum. I understand from the great deal of tektites on the market that it is legal to collect and export tektites – if this is not the case then the law is not enforced.
  

   

Please do let me know if you have any further information or experiences with regards tektite laws, ownership and export!