To mine the seabed under international waters, companies like DeepGreen need a licence from the UN’s International Seabed Authority (ISA). So far, only exploration licences have been granted. The ISA has put a hold on the actual extraction of minerals until they’ve completed their Mining Code: an unprecedented set of regulations to control what happens on the international seabed in an effort to ensure mining benefits everyone. This code has been in the works for nearly two decades.
But with time now running out on its exploration licences, the ISA is facing increasing pressure to push the code through and let mining begin. Is the world ready for this? And, given the powerful influence of mining interests and the inability of civil society to oversee what’s happening at the ISA, is this UN body really up to the task of protecting our ocean floors?