US Senators Push for UNCLOS Ratification as Members of Congress Call for ISA to Adopt Seafloor Mining Regulations
The Metals Company Inc. (TMC), an explorer of the world’s largest estimated undeveloped source of critical battery metals, commends an initiative by US Senators for the country to ratify UNCLOS—which it signed in 1982 but has since failed to ratify—in part to assert a leadership role in the global effort to govern the high seas and shore up supply chains for the critical battery materials required for the energy transition.
“The longer we sit out, the longer the rest of world will continue to set the agenda of maritime domain, from seabed mining to critical subsea infrastructure,” said Arctic Caucus Co-Chair Senator Murkowski in a press release. “It is time for America to not just join the world at the table, but to make sure we are helping to set the rules going forward.”
At the close of part III of the ISA’s 28th session earlier this month, twelve members of congress, led by Rep Wesley Hunt (R-TX), wrote a letter to ISA Secretary-General, Michael Lodge, as well as Council President Juan José González Mijares and Assembly President Fanday Turay, in which they called upon the ISA to adopt rules, regulations and procedures to govern deep-sea nodule collection which, they note, offer “a safe and environmentally responsible means for meeting societal needs for advanced materials and energy storage technologies without the taint of forced labor, slavery, or child labor abuses.”
TMC CEO & Chairman Gerard Barron said, “It’s encouraging to hear policymakers calling for the world’s largest economy to play an active role in shaping the rules for the responsible development of marine resources in the high seas. The US faces an acute shortage of domestic supply and processing of critical lithium-ion battery cathode materials like cobalt, nickel, and manganese. We recognize the longer-term opportunity that polymetallic nodules represent for the US and—whether the country ultimately ratifies UNLCOS or not—we will continue to work with American policymakers, companies, and researchers to determine a role for nodules in achieving the country's clean energy ambitions.”
In November, five Members of the US House of Representatives from Texas urged the Department of Defense to support the use of federal resources under the Defense Authorization Act towards a bankable feasibility study for nodule processing along the Texas Gulf Coast. In a letter to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy, Laura D. Taylor-Kale, the members wrote: “Securing the US critical mineral supply chain is a national security imperative. To counter China’s growing hold on the global supply chain, it is essential that the United States secure its own innovative supply of critical metals. The applicant seems to have the ability to produce battery-grade materials at commercial facilities in North America at pilot scale. The scope of the submission focuses solely on US processing and appears to offer the Department of Defense the opportunity to re-shore critical mineral supply lines.”
Over recent years, TMC has welcomed letters from Congressional Leaders including the House Armed Services Committee as well as former Military leaders urging the Biden Administration to assess domestic processing of seafloor polymetallic nodules as a means to secure key energy transition metals and “close national security vulnerabilities.” In March last year, Mr. Barron wrote to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in which he noted, “Support from the US Government for the development of the polymetallic nodules resource and TMC’s first project, NORI-D, would unlock access to the resource without overcoming legislative hurdles to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”