ISA Current Affairs

ISA extends India’s exclusive rights to explore Polymetallic Nodules

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) in its 23rd session recently held at Kingston, Jamaica has extended India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).

These rights extend over 75000 sq. km of area in international waters allocated by ISA for developmental activities for polymetallic nodules. The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential of this area is around 380 million tonnes, containing nickel (4.7 million tonnes), copper (4.29 million tonnes), cobalt (0.55 million tonnes) and manganese (92.59 million tonnes).

Background

India was the first country to receive the status of a pioneer investor for exploration and utilization of polymetallic nodules. It was allocated an exclusive area in Central Indian Ocean Basin by United Nations (UN) in 1987. India is one among the top 8-countries to implement a long–term programme on exploration and utilization of Polymetallic Nodules. Through Ministry of Earth Sciences it carries survey and exploration, environmental studies, technology development in mining and extractive metallurgy.

Polymetallic nodules

Polymetallic nodules (also called as manganese nodules) are small potato-sized (from millimetres to tens of centimetres in diameter) lumps of minerals found in deep sea. They contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, cadmium, vanadium, molybdenum, titanium in various proportions of which nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance. They are found in abundance carpeting the sea floor of world oceans in deep sea.

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

ISA is a UN body set up to regulate the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of oceans in international waters. It was established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Its headquarters are in Kingston, Jamaica.

Its mandate is to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond limits of national jurisdiction (exclusive economic zone), an area underlying most of world’s oceans. India actively contributes to the work of ISA. It was re-elected as a member of Council of ISA in 2016.

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Union Cabinet approves extension of contract with ISA for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules

The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of contract with and International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules (PMS).

The contract is between Union Ministry of Earth Sciences and ISA. It has been extended for a further period of 5 years (2017-22) as the earlier contract is expiring in March 2017.

What are Polymetallic Nodules?

  • Polymetallic nodules (PMN) are also known as manganese nodules.
  • They are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance carpeting the sea floor in the deep sea of the world oceans.
  • Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium.
  • Of these metals nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance.

What extension of Contract means?

  • By extending the contract, India’s exclusive rights for exploration of PMN in the allotted Area in the Central Indian Ocean Basin will continue.
  • It would open up new opportunities for resources of strategic and commercial value in area beyond national jurisdiction.
  • Further, it would provide strategic importance for India in terms of enhanced presence in Indian Ocean where other international players are also active in mineral explorations.

Background

  • India had signed a 15 year contract for exploration of PMN in Central Indian Ocean Basin with the ISA in March, 2002 with the approval of the Union Cabinet.
  • Under this contract, India is having an area of 75,000 sq km located about 2000 km away from her southern tip for exploration of PMN.
  • The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences is carrying out Survey and Exploration, Technology Development (Mining and Extractive Metallurgy) under PNS program through various national institutes.

About International Seabed Authority (ISA)

The ISA is an intergovernmental body that organizes, regulates and control all mineral (non-living resources) related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. It functions under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Presently, the ISA has 167 members and the European Union. The headquarters of ISA is located at Kingston, Jamaica.

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