The Mining Code

NERK Ferromanganese


The "Mining Code" refers to the whole of the comprehensive set of rules, regulations and procedures issued by ISA to regulate prospecting, exploration and exploitation of marine minerals in the international seabed Area, or the "Area" (defined as the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction).

All rules, regulations and procedures are issued within the general legal framework established by UNCLOS, in particular its Part XI on the Area, and its 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS.

ISA has adopted three sets of exploration regulations covering the prospecting and exploration for:

  • Polymetallic nodules (2000 and revised in 2013)
  • Polymetallic sulphides (2010)
  • Cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts (2012)

The regulations are supplemented by a series of recommendations for the guidance of contractors and sponsoring States issued by the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) and periodically updated. 

ISA began to develop regulations to govern the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area in 2014 with a series of scoping studies.

The aim of the exploitation regulations is to balance economic needs with rigorous environmental protection. Once in place, the regulations will require any entity planning to undertake activities in the international seabed area to abide by stringent global environmental requirements. The regime to be established also requires a portion of the financial rewards and other economic benefits from mining to be paid to ISA to then be shared according to “equitable sharing criteria”.

Draft exploitation regulations have been prepared by the LTC following a transparent process and a series of broad public consultations. The draft regulations will need to be adopted by the Council before any contract for mineral exploitation can be issued.