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Title 15Subtitle BChapter IXSubchapter DPart 970 → Subpart G


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


Subpart G—Environmental Effects


Contents
§970.700   General.
§970.701   Significant adverse environmental effects.
§970.702   Monitoring and mitigation of environmental effects.

Source: 46 FR 45908, Sept. 15, 1981, unless otherwise noted.

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§970.700   General.

Congress, in authorizing the exploration for hard mineral resources under the Act, also enacted provisions relating to the protection of the marine environment from the effects of exploration activities. For example, before the Administrator may issue a license, pursuant to section 105(a)(4) of the Act he must find that the exploration proposed in an application cannot reasonably be expected to result in a significant adverse effect on the quality of the environment. Also, the Act requires in section 109(b) that each license issued by the Administrator must contain such terms, conditions and restrictions which prescribe the actions the licensee must take in the conduct of exploration activities to assure protection of the environment. Furthermore, the Act in section 105(c)(1)(B) provides for the modification by the Administrator of any term, condition or restriction if relevant data and other information indicates that modification is required to protect the quality of the environment. In addition, section 114 of the Act specifies that each license issued under the Act must require the licensee to monitor the environmental effects of the exploration activities in accordance with guidelines issued by the Administrator, and to submit such information as the Administrator finds to be necessary and appropriate to assess environmental impacts and to develop and evaluate possible methods of mitigating adverse environmental effects.

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§970.701   Significant adverse environmental effects.

(a) Activities with no significant impact. NOAA believes that exploration activities of the type listed below are very similar or identical to activities considered in section 6(c)(3) of NOAA Directives Manual 02-10, and therefore have no potential for significant environmental impact, and will require no further environmental assessment.

(1) Gravity and magnetometric observations and measurements;

(2) Bottom and sub-bottom acoustic profiling or imaging without the use of explosives;

(3) Mineral sampling of a limited nature such as those using either core, grab or basket samplers;

(4) Water and biotic sampling, if the sampling does not adversely affect shellfish beds, marine mammals, or an endangered species, or if permitted by the National Marine Fisheries Service or another Federal agency;

(5) Meteorological observations and measurements, including the setting of instruments;

(6) Hydrographic and oceanographic observations and measurements, including the setting of instruments;

(7) Sampling by box core, small diameter core or grab sampler, to determine seabed geological or geotechnical properties;

(8) Television and still photographic observation and measurements;

(9) Shipboard mineral assaying and analysis; and

(10) Positioning systems, including bottom transponders and surface and subsurface buoys filed in Notices to Mariners.

(b) Activities with potential impact. (1) NOAA research has identified at-sea testing of recovery equipment and the operation of processing test facilities as activities which have some potential for significant environmental impacts during exploration. However, the research has revealed that only the following limited effects are expected to have potential for significant adverse environmental impact.

(2) The programmatic EIS's documents three at-sea effects of deep seabed mining which cumulatively during commercial recovery have the potential for significant effect. These three effects also occur during mining system tests that may be conducted under a license, but are expected to be insignificant. These include the following:

(i) Destruction of benthos in and near the collector track. Present information reflects that the impact from this effect during mining tests under exploration licenses will be extremely small.

(ii) Blanketing of benthic fauna and dilution of food supply away from mine site subareas. The settling of fine sediments disturbed by tests under a license of scale-model mining systems which simulate commercial recovery could adversely affect benthic fauna by blanketing, diluation of their food supply, or both. Because of the anticipated slow settling rate of the sediments, the affected area could be quite large. However, research results are insufficient to conclude that this will indeed be a problem.

(iii) Surface plume effect on fish larvae. The impact of demonstration-scale mining tests during exploration is expected to be insignificant.

(3) If processing facilities in the United States are planned to be used for testing during exploration, NOAA also will assess their impacts in the site-specific EIS developed for each license.

(c) NOAA approach. In making determinations on significant adverse environmental effects, the Administrator will draw on the above conclusions and other findings in NOAA's programmatic environmental statement and site-specific statements issued in accordance with the Act. He will issue licenses with terms, conditions and restrictions containing, as appropriate, environmental protection or mitigation requirements (pursuant to §970.518) and monitoring requirements (pursuant to §970.522). The focus of NOAA's environmental efforts will be on environmental research and on monitoring during mining tests to acquire more information on the environmental effects of deep seabed mining. If these efforts reveal that modification is required to protect the quality of the environment, NOAA then may modify terms, conditions and restrictions pursuant to §970.512.

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§970.702   Monitoring and mitigation of environmental effects.

(a) Monitoring. If an application is determined to be otherwise acceptable, the Administrator will specify an environmental monitoring plan as part of the terms, conditions and restrictions developed for each license. The plan will be based on the monotoring plan proposed by the applicant and reviewed by NOAA for completeness, accuracy and statistical reliability. This monitoring strategy will be devised to insure that the exploration activities do not deviate significantly from the approved exploration plan and to determine if the assessment of the plan's acceptability was sound. The monitoring plan, among other things, will include monitoring environmental parameters relating to verficiation of NOAA's findings concerning potential impacts, but relating mainly to the three unresolved concerns with the potential for significant environmental effect, as identified in §970.701(b)(2). NOAA has developed a technical guidance document, which includes parameters pertaining to the upper and lower water column and operational aspects, which document will provide assistance in developing monitoring plans in consultation with applicants.

(b) Mitigation. Monitoring and continued research may develop information on future needs for mitigating environmental effects. If such needs are identified, terms, conditions and restrictions can be modified appropriately.

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