How to access the hidden treasure
Who can mine deep sea The UN's International Seabed Authority (ISA) grants prospecting, exploration and exploitation licenses for all mining activities in the seabed of the international waters, which are beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Only an ISA body or state-owned or government- sponsored companies can engage in mining-related activities. However, there are instances when companies have directly approached a nation to mine its territorial waters. Laws that protect exploitation and trade of deep sea minerals Due to geography and jurisdictional location of deep sea mining, the framework for financing and development of a deep sea mining project will include a complex set of agreements subject to various governing laws. Exploration and exploitation contracts between project company and ISA are governed by the Law of the Sea and, where relevant, by international laws. Since projects are situated beyond territorial waters, a varied security regime will apply to provide security to surface vessels, submersibles, remotely operating vehicles, dredgers and extraction equipment. About taxes and royalties Resources under the international waters are meant for the entire humankind. However, ISA has been considering ways to levy royalty and taxes on the minerals extracted, similar to terrestrial mining. A 2013 technical paper published by ISA says this is to safeguard the environment in areas of mining. Till now there is no regulatory mechanism in place for this. Since certain exploration licences are due to expire in 2016, ISA plans to introduce a framework that says commercial operators shall pay
based on the principle of "common heritage of humankind". Environmental impacts This has been a bone of contention between mining companies and the scientific community. One of the greatest ironies of deep sea mineral deposits is, for a marine botanist or biologist these are places that hold secrets of life. Besides, most areas of the ocean floor are yet to be explored and environmental impacts of mining on these areas remain unknown. Though ISA require contractors to follow necessary measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution during exploration activity, it does not have regulations in place for commercial mining.
Hydrothermal vents, known for the prized polymetallic sulphide deposits, are nurseries of benthic species, many of which are yet to be discovered; (Right) Mouth of a vent containing biomass