How to ac­cess the hid­den trea­sure

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

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

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