The UN’s International Seabed Authority (ISA) has opened up massive new regions of the ocean floor for mining companies to search for and dig up valuable minerals including copper, gold and manganese by issuing seven new exploration licences.
State-owned and private companies from the UK, Germany, India, Brazil, Singapore and Russia are among those to benefit from the seabed regulator’s latest decision.
Seabed Resources, an English subsidiary of the US defence giant Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), has secured exploration rights to an area larger than the entire UK.
Since 2001 ISA has issued 30 exploration permits for the Pacific, Mid-Atlantic and Indian Oceans. But the body says there has been a rush as of late, with numerous private firms applying not only for mineral, but also for oil and gas extraction permits.
The total area of seabed open for mining has reached 1.2 million square kilometres divided up among 26 different permits for minerals prospecting.
Canada’s Nautilus Minerals (TSX:NUS) is currently leading the race to open the first seabed mine. In a deal arranged outside the ISA system, the company overcame several difficulties until it reached an agreement with the Papua New Guinea government to move forward with its Solwara 1 gold, copper and silver underwater project, located in the Bismarck Sea.
New Zealand’s Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) was not as lucky as Nautilus. The country’s authorities rejected last month its $70 million ocean floor iron mine project, which could have become the country’s first operation of its kind.