Deep sea mining and the United States: Unbound powerhouse or odd man out?
(2020) Marine Policy. 124.
Beyond the boundaries of national jurisdiction, the seabed and its mineral resources are governed by a comprehensive international regime, consisting of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the 1994 Implementation Agreement and detailed rules issued by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), and the exploitation phase is gradually approaching. However, the United States has not ratified the treaties, which gives rise to several issues. Indeed, depending on legal interpretation, this results in the US either being authorized to claim and exploit natural resources within the Area without prior permission of the ISA, or the US being barred from any deep sea mining activities beyond national jurisdiction. Furthermore, with regard to mineral exploitation on the continental shelf, the non-ratification of the treaties concerned also results in a number of legal questions. On the basis of a purposeful discussion of relevant international law and a thorough analysis of the US position towards the deep sea mining provisions of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, as adapted by the 1994 Implementation Agreement, as well as its current role within the context of deep sea mining, this article attempts to solve this legal conundrum. Does the US find itself in a privileged position, being able to disregard the international regime and to exploit mineral resources however and wherever they please, or should the US be regarded as the odd man out, excluded from deep sea mining activities until they ratify the relevant treaties?