The first Council of the Authority was elected by the Assembly at the second session of the Authority in March 1996 (Composition of the Council table from 1996-2010).
In accordance with paragraph 15, of section 3, of the annex to the Agreement, the Council shall consist of 36 members elected by the Assembly in the following order:
Four members from among those States Parties which, during the last five years for which statistics are available, have either consumed more than 2 per cent in value terms of total world consumption or have had net imports of more than 2 per cent in value terms of total world imports of the commodities produced from the categories of minerals to be derived from the Area, provided that the four members shall include one State from the Eastern European region having the largest economy in that region in terms of gross domestic product and the State, on the date of entry into force of the Convention, having the largest economy in terms of gross domestic product, if such States wish to be represented in this group;
- Four members from among the eight States Parties which have made the largest investments in preparation for and in the conduct of activities in the Area, either directly or through their nationals;
Four members from among States Parties which, on the basis of production in areas under their jurisdiction, are major net exporters of the categories of minerals to be derived from the Area, including at least two developing States whose exports of such minerals have a substantial bearing upon their economies;
Six members from among developing States Parties, representing special interests. The special interests to be represented shall include those of States with large populations, States which are land-locked or geographically disadvantaged, island States, States which are major importers of the categories of minerals to be derived from the Area, States which are potential producers for such minerals and least developed States;
Eighteen members elected according to the principle of ensuring an equitable geographical distribution of seats in the Council as a whole, provided that each geographical region shall have at least one member elected under this subparagraph. For this purpose, the geographical regions shall be Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and Western Europe and Others.
As “the executive organ of the Authority”, the Council establishes specific policies in conformity with the Convention and the general policies set by the Assembly. It supervises and coordinates implementation of the elaborate regime established by the Convention to promote and regulate exploration for and exploitation of deep-sea minerals by States, corporations and other entities. Under this system, no such activity may legally take place until contracts have been signed between each interested entity and the Authority. The Council’s task is to draw up the terms of contracts, approve contract applications, oversee implementation of the contracts, and establish environmental and other standards. Its specific functions include the following:
It approves 15-year plans of work in the form of contracts, in which governmental and private entities spell out the mining activities they intend to conduct in precisely defined geographical areas assigned to them.
It exercises control over activities in the Area, and supervises and coordinates implementation of the seabed provisions of the Convention.
It adopts and applies provisionally, pending approval by the Assembly, the rules, regulations and procedures by which the Authority controls prospecting, exploration and exploitation in the Area. Its initial set of regulations, adopted by consensus in 2000 and covering prospecting and exploration for polymetallic nodules, is intended as the first part of a mining code that will eventually deal also with exploitation and with other deep-sea mineral resources. The Council has begun work on a second set of regulations, concerning cobalt crusts and metal-bearing sulphides.
In cases where an environmental threat arises from seabed activities, it may issue emergency orders to prevent harm, including orders to suspend or adjust operations.
It plays a role in various aspects of the regular functioning of the Authority, for example by proposing candidates for Secretary-General, reviewing and recommending the Authority’s budget for approval by the Assembly, and making recommendations to the Assembly on any policy matter.
The Council will also assume additional responsibilities once deep-sea mining commences in earnest. These include the issuance of directives to the Enterprise, action (including compensation) to protect land-based mineral producers in the developing countries from adverse economic effects of seabed production, and the establishment of mechanisms for a staff of inspectors who would ensure compliance with the Authority’s regulations and contracts.
| Composition of Council | Council Presidents |
| Member States | Council | Legal & Technical Commission |
| Finance Committee | Observer States