The International Seabed Authority wound up its fifteenth annual session in Kingston 5 June after nearly two weeks of intensive negotiations without finalizing a text on a set of regulations that would govern the exploration of polymetallic sulphides in deep oceans beyond national jurisdiction.

The Authority’s 36-member Council which has been conducting the negotiations failed to agree on a compromise provision dealing with anti-monopoly and overlapping claims to potential mine sites in the seabed Area. It was agreed that discussions would be continued at the sixteenth session of the Authority – 26 April to 7 May 2010.

During the session, the Assembly’s expert body, the Legal and Technical Commission, adopted revised regulations on prospecting and exploration for ferromanganese crusts in the Area which is to be transmitted to the Council for its consideration at the sixteenth session. 

The two instruments when eventually adopted by the Assembly would form part of a mining code which the Authority is constructing to enable it to organize and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed Area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

The first piece of seabed legislation entitled “Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the Area” was adopted by the Authority on 13 July 2000. It includes the forms necessary for applying for exploration rights as well as  standard terms of exploration contracts. Polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts are different from polymetallic nodules as well as distinct from one another.

The draft regulations on sulphides and nodules fall within a general legal framework established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Implementing Agreement relating to deep seabed mining.

The International Seabed Authority came into being on 16 November 1994 with the entry into force that year of the Convention. The Authority organizes workshops and sensitization seminars on all aspects of seabed prospecting and explorations, in addition to its work on elaborating regulations and rules.