Metallic mineral resources in international waters

Mineral resources in international waters are managed by the International Seabed Authority. France has two exploration permits in the international zone, one in the Clarion-Clipperton region and the other in the North Atlantic.

The International Seabed Authority (ISM)

The AIFM has the mandate to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep-seabed related activities.

Administration of these seabed resources was entrusted to the Authority under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea adopted in 1982, which had 142 State members at the end of February 2003.

  • In 2000, the Authority began by adopting a regulation on the prospecting and exploration of polymetallic nodules, which applies to all private and public bodies that have entered into a contract with it.
  • Regulations for the prospection of polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich encrustments were adopted in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Permits held by France in international waters under ISM-Ifremer contracts

Polymetallic nodule contract for exploration

The contract was initiated in 2001 and expired in 2016 with the submission of a report including all data acquired during the execution of the program. This report included an estimate of resources and areas of exploitation.

The contract was later extended to June 2021. France invested a considerable research effort in the 1970s and 1980s in prospecting for Pacific nodules (nearly 50 oceanographic expeditions). The French permit is located in one of the most favourable areas worldwide in terms of the wealth and density of nodules on the seabed

Mid-Atlantic polymetallic sulphide contract for exploration

In 2012, Ifremer submitted a project to explore an area of the Mid-Atlantic. The project was accepted and a 15-year contract between Ifremer and the ISA was signed in 2014. At the end of the 15-year period, Ifremer was to conduct explorative oceanographic expeditions to assess the potential of the sector.