Only U.S. firm with claim rights for deep seabed mining unable to secure investment as long as U.S. remains outside of UNCLOS
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Jennifer Warren, vice president, technology policy and regulation at Lockheed Martin, discussed the com- pany’s history and interest in deep seabed exploration, which dates back more than 40 years. She said it has generated more than 80 patents and invested more than $500 million in exploration largely in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone that extends from Baja California to Hawaii.
“Recent developments in deep seabed resources have really sharpened our interest in seeing Law of the Sea ratified as soon as possible,” Warren said.
Lockheed, she said, has maintained its licenses to to explore and extract rare earth minerals, even as the market for minerals lagged. However, today, the demand has risen sharply for “rare earths,” as they are known, which produce valuable metals for flat-screen televisions, electric hybrid batteries, tank armor, night-vision goggles and cell phones.
Furthermore, Warren said, Lockheed’s claims now are the only current active U.S.-based claims. Last July, the first four licenses for deep seabed exploration were granted by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the organization created by the Convention to recognize mining claims beyond the continental margin, and two of them are held by China and Russia, she said.
"The importance of these resources is well understood internationally,” Warren said, describing the need to be a party to the Law of the Sea Convention in order to be an active participant and have authorities in, for example, the rule-making process within the ISA. “Other countries are moving forward quickly and aggressively to access them. As the only U.S.-based claimant, our view is pretty straightforward. Business initiatives to exploit deep seabed mineral resources will only be able to secure the necessary financial investments if done pursuant to the existing international framework.”
The development of deep seabed claims is incredibly expensive. Companies in the U.S. are reluctant to invest heavily in deep seabed mining because of the risk that their activities would not withstand a legal challenge since the U.S. is not a party to the Convention. Conversely, foreign companies, because their governments have joined the Convention, have access to the international bodies that grant the legal claims to operate in the deep seabed area. The U.S. cannot represent the interests of its companies in those bodies.