The Main Players

The deep seabed mining arena involves a collection of government, intergovernment, industry, scientific, academic, civil society and other interests. Since the start of the 21st century several factors have converged to propel deep seabed mining from a concept towards becoming a practical reality.

Exploration

As of May 2017, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) has issued permits and entered into 15-year contracts for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts in the deep seabed with 27 contractors.

Fourteen of these contracts are for exploration for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone and Central Indian Ocean Basin. There are five contracts for exploration for polymetallic sulphides in the South West Indian Ridge, Central Indian Ridge and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and three contracts for exploration for cobalt-rich crusts in the Western Pacific Ocean.

The contractors are a mix of corporate enterprises and state-owned companies, with several governments keen to establish the rights to mine and to gain a foothold on the international seabed.

Click here for a full list of licenses granted to companies as of May 2017.

Click here for a list of companies with an interest in deep seabed mining as of May 2017.

Science

The growing interest in exploiting ocean minerals has provided a boon to the deep-sea scientific community with numerous research contracts. Examples include:

  • The Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI): A grouping of deep-sea scientists seeking to integrate science, technology, policy, law and economics to advise on ecosystem-based management of resource use in the deep ocean and strategies to maintain the integrity of deep-ocean ecosystems within and beyond national jurisdiction.
  • Managing Impacts of Deep-Sea Resource Exploitation (MIDAS): The MIDAS Project was a multi-disciplinary project funded by the European Commission (2013-2016) involving marine research institutes across Europe, investigating environmental impacts of deep-sea mining in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
  • A trans-Atlantic assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based spatial management plan for Europe (Atlas): An EU Horizon 2020 project running from 2016–2020. Atlas will provide essential new knowledge of deep-ocean ecosystems in the north Atlantic. This project will explore the world of deep-sea habitats (200–2000 meters) where the greatest gaps in our understanding lie and certain populations and ecosystems are under pressure.

Civil society

DSCC member organizations focused on seabed mining include the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, EarthWorks, Greenpeace International, Seas At Risk, The Global Ocean Trust, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF.

The Bellagio Group includes the World Economic Forum, industry, Commonwealth Secretariat, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies and government officials. It is undertaking initiatives on transparency, financial regulations and protected areas.