International Seabed Authority (ISA) | IAS Target IAS Target

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an intergovernmental body. ISA was created in 1994 to organize, control and regulate all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world's oceans. It is an organization created by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. US is an observer state in the ISA.

Headquarter Kingston, Jamaica
Membership 168 states parties (2018)
Affiliations Observer to the UNGA


Assembly Consists of all the members
  • It is the executive organ and consists of 36 members nominated by assembly.
  • It supervises and coordinates implementation of the regime established by the Convention
  • Establishes specific policies in conformity with the Convention and the general policies set by the Assembly

Mandate of ISA

  • ISA governs non-living resources of seabed lying in international waters
  • to issue licenses regarding exploration and mining of deep marine resources particularly deep seabed mining in International waters (beyond 370 km in Continental Shelf region)

ISA has set environmental regulations regarding marine exploration activities but not mining regulations for underwater deep seabed mining. ISA granted permission to India for seabed exploration in the Indian Ocean by granting licenses for exploration and mineral rights.

Today sea bed mining more important than ever- why?

  • The vast repository of minerals, including the precious cobalt, zinc, manganese and rare earth minerals (REM) that are required for laptops, smart phones, and hybrid cars, are present in this hitherto unexplored area.
  • This repository of minerals is found in 3 kind of ores:
    • Polymetallic manganese nodules that remain strewn across the ocean floor
    • Cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts that cover the seamounts
    • Polymetallic sulphide deposits around hydrothermal vents

Concern regarding Sea-bed mining

  • Large robots, accompanied by noise pollution may destroy habitats of rare species.
  • Adverse Impact on the flora-fauna because of pollution and debris generated during mining. Exposure to sunlight might impact the reproduction and growth of species
  • Devastation of marine species and this disturbs the gaseous balance in the water body which also affects other species in the food chain. Climate change and Global warming further aggravate the ecology of the system

A rare-earth element (REE) or rare-earth metal (REM), as defined by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, is one of a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, specifically the fifteen lanthanides, as well as scandium and yttrium. Scandium and yttrium are considered rare-earth elements because they tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides and exhibit similar chemical properties but have different electronic and magnetic properties.

Rare earth materials are important because of their utilization in the fields of:

  • electronic gadgets (smartphones),
  • Rare earth materials found in India (RJS, Chh, JK)
  • renewable energy (wind turbines, solar panel),
  • defence (LASER, Radar),
  • Hybrid vehicle components,
  • Medical imaging etc.
  • India and Japan also committed for rare earth material exploration and reduce dependence on China.

China produces 95% of the total REMs followed by India and USA. Add to that, China has imposed quota limits on REMís exports. Despite their name, rare-earth elements are Ė relatively bountiful in Earth's crust. However, because of their geochemical properties, rare-earth elements are typically dispersed and not often found concentrated in rare-earth minerals; as a result economically exploitable ore deposits are less common.