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Deep Sea Mining 

Deep Sea Mining

Discussion: Deep Sea Mining

The International Seabed Authority — the UN body that regulates the world’s ocean floor — is preparing to resume negotiations that could open the international seabed for mining.

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

International Seabed
International Seabed
  • About
    • ISA is an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
    • Its primary mandate is to regulate and manage all mineral-related activities in the international seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
    • ISA came into existence in November 1994, upon the entry into force of UNCLOS.
      • It became fully operational as an autonomous international organization in June 1996.
  • Headquarter – Kingston, Jamaica.
  • Functions
    • The ISA is responsible for granting licenses and regulating activities related to the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the international seabed.
    • Its ensures that these activities are carried out in a manner that protects the marine environment and promotes the equitable and efficient utilization of resources.

About Deep Sea Mining

  • Deep sea mining involves removing mineral deposits and metals from the ocean’s seabed.
  • There are three types of such mining:
    • taking deposit-rich polymetallic nodules off the ocean floor,
    • mining massive seafloor sulphide deposits; and
    • stripping cobalt crusts from rock.
  • These nodules, deposits and crusts contain materials, such as nickel, rare earths, cobalt and more.
  • These minerals are needed for batteries and other materials used in tapping renewable energy and also for everyday technology like cellphones and computers.

Regulation of Deep Sea mining: Current Status

  • The high seas and the international ocean floor are governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.
    • Water beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast of a country is known as high sea.
    • High seas are the areas of the ocean for which no one nation has sole responsibility for management.
  • It is considered to apply to states regardless of whether or not they have signed or ratified it.
  • Under the treaty, the seabed and its mineral resources are considered the common heritage of mankind.
  • As per the treaty, this heritage must be managed in a way that protects the interests of humanity through the sharing of economic benefits, support for marine scientific research, and protecting marine environments.

Environmental Concerns Associated With Deep Sea Mining
  • Conservationists worry that ecosystems will be damaged by mining, especially without any environmental protocols.
  • Damage from mining can include noise, vibration and light pollution, as well as possible leaks and spills of fuels and other chemicals used in the mining process.
  • Sediment plumes from some mining processes are a major concern.
    • Once valuable materials are extracted, slurry sediment plumes are sometimes pumped back into the sea.
    • That can harm filter feeding species like corals and sponges, and could otherwise interfere with some creatures.

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