KINGSTON, Jamaica — On July 21, nations reached an agreement that will make it more difficult for deep-sea mining to start immediately in international waters, while not fully halting the industry’s progress.

For the past two weeks, council members of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN-affiliated deep-sea mining regulator, have been meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to negotiate a set of rules that would govern seabed mining in international waters. This proposed activity would excavate the ocean floor for commercially valuable minerals, which proponents say are needed for renewable technologies, such as electric-vehicle batteries. Yet, critics say deep-sea mining is unnecessary for mineral procurement and would cause widespread and far-reaching damage to marine ecosystems that sustain life on Earth. While deep-sea mining has not begun anywhere in the world, mining companies have invested large sums of money into technology development and launched mining exploration missions into the deep sea.

These meetings were highly anticipated because they coincided with the expiration of a so-called two-year rule that had the potential to jump-start deep-sea mining on the high seas, the vast tracts of ocean beyond national jurisdictions. In 2021, the tiny Pacific island of Nauru activated this rule embedded in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to encourage the ISA to adopt mining regulations by July 9, 2023, or to allow mining to begin with whatever rules were in place at the time. The Metals Company (NASDAQ: TMC), a corporation whose subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI) is sponsored by Nauru, previously told Mongabay that it intended to submit a mining application this year with a view of starting operations in 2024. This makes TMC a front-runner among several companies seeking to mine the deep sea […]

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