Sangeetha Pulapaka

Polymetallic nodules are found at the surface of soft deep-sea bottoms at abyssal depths. Large areas in different parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans are known to have high concentrations of these nodular deposit. Even though very little is known on the biodiversity associated with nodules in these highly remote places vast areas are being targeted by concession holders for future mining  Despite the present lack of knowledge, large-scale harmful effects of these activities are expected7. Since the International Seabed Authority (ISA) aims to develop a regulatory framework for mineral exploitation in the area beyond national jurisdiction in the near future an improved knowledge of the fauna associated with nodules is crucial for establishing mining regulations and procedures.

Rich in copper, cobalt, nickel and manganese, polymetallic nodules have been receiving varying levels of attention from governments and industry, depending on the prevailing socio-economic and political settings. The recognition of the potentially high economic value of mineral deposits in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the Area) led in 1982, under the UN convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to the implementation of ISA, an organization that is responsible for the management of these resources, as well as the conservation and protection of the marine environment and its flora and fauna from mining activities (Article 145 UNCLOS). Since then, and with increasing frequency in the past few years, different organizations have applied for mining licenses in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ), the main area of worldwide interest in terms of minable minerals. Contractors are required to survey the biota of their license area and to evaluate thir planned mining activities on the environment. Since the first of these exploration contracts expires in 2016, a regulatory framework for mineral exploitation in the Area needs to be implemented urgently.