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21 Ocean L. Memo 1 (1981)

handle is hein.journals/ocoaslme21 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Ocean and Coastal Law  Center * School of Law * University  of Oregon * Eugene -97403'

Ocean Law Memo

October, 1981



    During 1980 Congress added three new
 laws to the ocean and coastal legislation
 of the 1970's.  They are the Deep Seabed
 Hard Mineral Resources Act (Seabed Mining
 Act), the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
 Act  (OTEC Act), and the National Aqua-
 culture Policy, Planning and Development
 Act  (Aquaculture Act).  Implementation
 of the Seabed Mining Act has begun and the
 first applications for exploratory licenses
 are expected to be submitted in the near
 future.  Implementing regulations for the
 OTEC Act have been published, but imple-
 mentation of the Aquaculture Act depends
 more on future Congressional appropriations
 decisions.  The long-range implications of
 all three laws are significant.  This
 Ocean Law Memo summarizes the major pro-
 visions of all three acts and discusses
 important issues raised by them.


   In  June, 1980, Congress passed the
 Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act.
 The Act was intended to improve the invest-
 ment climate for private ocean mining
 interests during the interim period prior
 to the effective date of a Law of the Sea
 treaty to be adopted by the U.N. Conference
 on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). At the
 time of passage, it appeared likely that
 such a treaty would someday regulate sea-
 bed mining on an international level. The
 domestic Deep Seabed Mining Act may have
 increased in importance now that the
 Reagan administration has stalled U.S.
 participation in UNCLOS negotiations,
 pending review in particular of the pro-
 posed treaty's seabed mining provisions.

    The Act deals with the mining of man-
 ganese nodules, fist-sized lumps of
 minerals found primarily on the deep sea-
 bed in international waters at depths of
 12,000 to 20,000 feet. The nodules con-
 tain manganese, iron, nickel, copper and
 cobalt. Some estimates place the potential
 supply of nodules as high as 1.5 trillion

 130 U.S.C. S 1401.

E       Distributed by: OSU Extension Service' Sea

tons.   Manganese, cobalt and nickel are
considered  to be strategic to U.S. in-
dustrial  and national security interests,
because  they are used to impart strength
and  temperature and corrosion resistance
to  steel alloys.  The U.S. currently im-
ports  virtually all of its supply of these
metals  from a handful of foreign sources,
many  of them in the Third World.  The Act
is  premised on the belief that the U.S.
must  develop its own source of these
strategic  minerals to ensure a supply in
the  event of worldwide shortages, price
dislocations  or political disruptions.

    It was Congress' view that substantial
 investment and a relatively long lead time
 are needed to develop fully the technology
 and capability necessary for commercial
 exploitation of the nodule resource.
 Congress feared that this private invest-
 ment would not take place because of the
 uncertainty as to the nature of an UNCLOS
 treaty regime and the degree of seabed
 access the treaty rules would provide to
 investing U.S. companies.  Therefore,
 Congress enacted this legislation with the
 stated purposes of both encouraging the
 completion of a Law of the Sea treaty and
 creating a domestic legal regime to en-
 courage private investment and technology
 development. The Act also creates an
 interim regulatory program to ensure that
 ocean mining is conducted in a manner
 which conserves the resources, protects
 the environment and promotes safety at


   The Act provides that any future Law
of the Sea treaty to which the U.S. be-
comes a party will supersede the Act,
but only to the extent that the two legal
regimes are inconsistent with each other.
Congress included several provisions in
the Act addressing fears expressed by U.S.
miners about a future international treaty.

Grant Marine Advisory Program, Corvallis, OR 97331

ISSue  21

October, 1981

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