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e-CFR data is current as of January 15, 2021

Title 15Subtitle BChapter IXSubchapter DPart 970 → Subpart F


Title 15: Commerce and Foreign Trade
PART 970—DEEP SEABED MINING REGULATIONS FOR EXPLORATION LICENSES


Subpart F—Resource Development Concepts


Contents
§970.600   General.
§970.601   Logical mining unit.
§970.602   Diligent exploration.
§970.603   Conservation of resources.

Source: 46 FR 45907, Sept. 15, 1981, unless otherwise noted.

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§970.600   General.

Several provisions in the Act relate to appropriate mining techniques or mining efficiency. These raise what could be characterized as resource development issues. In particular, under section 103(a)(2)(D) of the Act, the applicant will select the size and location of the area of an exploration plan, which will be approved unless the Administrator finds that the area is not a “logical mining unit.” Also, pursuant to section 108 of the Act the applicant's exploration plan and the terms, conditions and restrictions of each license must be designed to ensure diligent development. In addition, for the purpose of conservation of natural resources, section 110 of the Act provides that each license is to contain, but only as needed, terms, conditions, and restrictions which have due regard for the prevention of waste and the future opportunity for the commercial recovery of the unrecovered balance of the resources.

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§970.601   Logical mining unit.

(a) In the case of an exploration license, a logical mining unit is an area of the deep seabed which can be explored under the license, and within the 10-year license period, in an efficient, economical and orderly manner with due regard for conservation and protection of the environment, taking into consideration the resource data, other relevant physical and environmental characteristics, and the state of the technology of the applicant as set forth in the exploration plan. In addition, it must be of sufficient size to allow for intensive exploration.

(b) Approval by the Administrator of a proposed exploration logical mining unit will be based on a case-by-case review of each application. In order to provide a proper basis for this evaluation, the applicant's exploration plan should describe the seabed topography, the location of mineral deposits and the nature of planned equipment and operations. Also, the exploration plan must show the relationship between the area to be explored and the applicant's plans for commercial recovery volume, to the extent projected in the exploration plan.

(c) In delineating an exploration area, the applicant need not include unmineable areas. Thus, the area need not consist of contiguous segments, as long as each segment would be efficiently mineable and the total proposed area constitutes a logical mining unit. In describing the area, the applicant must present the geodetic coordinates of the points defining the boundaries, referred to the World Geodetic System (WGS) Datum. A boundary between points must be a geodesic. If grid coordinates are desired, the Universal Transverse Mercator Grid System must be used.

(d) At the applicant's option, for the purpose of satisfying a possible obligation under a future Law of the Sea Treaty, the applicant may propose an exploration area which includes two exploration logical mining units. The applicant should specify in the application if this “banking” option is chosen, and any applicant choosing this option and filing an application based on pre-enactment exploration under §970.301 shall so notify the Administrator in accordance with §970.301(g).

(e) Applicants are advised that NOAA will not accept an application or issue a license for an exploration area larger than 150,000 square kilometers unless the applicant can demonstrate the necessity of a larger area based on factors such as topography, nodule abundance, distribution and ore grade. If the applicant elects to pursue the “banking” option described in paragraph (d) of this section, and wishes to apply for an exploration area larger than 150,000 square kilometers, the applicant must file a second application with respect to at least the area in excess of 150,000 square kilometers, unless the applicant justifies such excess area as part of a single application under the preceding sentence.

[46 FR 45907, Sept. 15, 1981, as amended at 47 FR 5968, Feb. 9, 1982]

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§970.602   Diligent exploration.

(a) Each licensee must pursue diligently the activities described in his approved exploration plan. This requirement applies to the full scope of the plan, including environmental safeguards and monitoring systems. To help assure this diligence, terms, conditions and restrictions which the Administrator issues with a license will require such periodic reasonable expenditures for exploration by the licensee as the Administrator may establish, taking into account the size of the area of the deep seabed to which the exploration plan applies and the amount of funds which is estimated by the Administrator to be required during exploration for commercial recovery of hard mineral resources to begin within the time limit established by the Administrator. However, such required expenditures will not be established at a level which would discourage exploration by persons with less costly technology than is prevalently in use.

(b) In order to fulfill the diligence requirement, the applicant first must propose to the Administrator an estimated schedule of activities and expenditures pursuant to §970.203(b) (3) and (6). The schedule must show, and the Administrator must be able to make a reasonable determination, that the applicant can complete his exploration activities within the term of the license. In this regard, there must be a reasonable relationship between the size of the exploration area and the financial and technological resources reflected in the application. Also, the exploration must clearly point toward developing the ability, by the end of the 10-year license period, to apply for and obtain a permit for commercial recovery.

(c) Ultimately, the diligence requirement will involve a retrospective determination by the Administrator, based on the licensee's reasonable conformance to the approved exploration plan. Such determination, however, will take into account the need for some degree of flexibility in an exploration plan. It also will include consideration of the needs and stage of development of each licensee, again based on the approved exploration plan. In addition, the determination will take account of legitimate periods of time when there is no or very low expenditure, and will allow for a certain degree of flexibility for changes encountered by the licensee in such factors as its resource knowledge and financial considerations.

(d) In order for the Administrator to make determinations on a licensee's adherence to the diligence requirements, the licensee must submit a report annually reflecting his conformance to the schedule of activities and expenditures contained in the license. In case of any changes requiring a revision to an approved license and exploration plan, the licensee must advise the Administrator in accordance with §970.513.

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§970.603   Conservation of resources.

(a) With respect to the exploration phase of seabed mining, the requirement for the conservation of natural resources, encompassing due regard for the prevention of waste and the future opportunity for the commercial recovery of the unrecovered balance of the hard mineral resources in the area to which the license applies, may not be particularly relevant. Thus, since the Act requires such terms, conditions and restrictions only as needed, exploration licenses will require such provisions only as the Administrator deems necessary.

(b) NOAA views license phase mining system tests as an opportunity to examine, with industry, the conservation implications of any mining patterns used. Thus, in order to develop information needed for future decisions during commercial recovery, NOAA will include with a license a requirement for the submission of collector track and nodule production data. Only if information submitted reflects that the integrated system tests are resulting in undue waste or threatening the future opportunity for commercial recovery of the unrecovered balance of hard mineral resources will the Administrator modify the terms, conditions or restrictions pertaining to the conservation of natural resources, in order to address such problems.

(c) If the Administrator so modifies such terms, conditions and restrictions relating to conservation of resources, he will employ a balancing process in the consideration of the state of the technology being developed, the processing system utilized and the value and potential use of any waste, the environmental effects of the exploration activities, economic and resource data, and the national need for hard mineral resources.

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