Who owns the space under cities? The attempt to map the earth beneath us

Historically, the foundation of property law in the US and UK was enshrined in the Latin phrase “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos” – which roughly translates as: “Whoever owns the soil, holds title up to the heavens and down to the depths of hell.”

Subterranean scholar Dr Marilu Melo of the University of Sydney explains that not all countries behave this way. In Mexico, for example, “property rights are effectively superficial, they do not extend volumetrically into the earth,” she says.

Even in places that have traditionally been ardent defenders of private property, however, once human beings took to the air and started tunnelling underground, the old heaven to hell ideal began to require caveats.