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Legal Uncertainties Muddy the Waters for Deep-Sea Mining's Future

Due to ever-increasing strains on critical raw materials supply chains and the urgent, growing pressure to transition to clean energy and electric vehicles, the extraction of polymetallic nodules from the seabed has been gaining momentum as a possible source of critical raw materials. The International Seabed Authority (“ISA”) is responsible for protecting the marine environment and regulating activities in the international seabed Area.

Over the last decade, the ISA’s executive organ, the Council, has been working to elaborate and adopt rules, regulations and procedures (RRPs) for exploitation activities in the Area. Despite mounting international pressure, the Council has failed to finalise the RRPs for exploitation by the deadline of 9 July 2023, following the trigger of a “two-year rule” to complete the RRPs by Nauru in 2021. The second part of the much anticipated 28th session of the Council concluded on 21st July 2023 without any further resolution on the RRPs for exploitation activities.

While the ISA have ruled out any immediate permission for mining to begin, they have kept open a “legal loophole” that could allow it to begin next year. In this article, Louise Woods and Elena Guillet examine this loophole.

Read the article on Mining Magazine.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.