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The International Seabed Area
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Covering around 54 per cent of the total area of the world’s oceans, the International Seabed Area (known as ‘the Area’) is defined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as the ‘seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction’. This chapter begins by explaining the background to the current legal regime of the Area, tracing developments from the time when it was first realised that seabed mining was a commercial possibility. It then analyses the current legal regime, as set out in Part XI of the UN Convention and the 1994 Implementation Agreement, and supplemented by regulations and procedures issued by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). It addresses in detail the roles of the various organs of the ISA, as well as the current system of exploitation, including the role of the sponsoring State, the regulations currently in place addressing the prospecting and exploration of deep seabed minerals, as well as the draft regulations addressing their exploitation. Finally the principle of the Area and its resources as the ‘common heritage of mankind’ is analysed, and in this context the environmental issues of mining are highlighted.

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