The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) outlines the areas of national jurisdiction as a 12 nautical-mile territorial sea; an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles and a continental shelf. The international seabed area - the part under ISA jurisdiction - is defined as “the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction."
ISA has entered into 15-year contracts with twenty-one contractors for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts in the international seabed area (the Area).
The areas being explored are in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, the Indian Ocean, Mid Atlantic Ridge, South Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
For polymetallic nodules, the entitled exploration area allocated to each contractor is 75,000 square kilometres.
For polymetallic sulphides, the entitled exploration area allocated to each contractor is 10,000 square kilometres and consists of 100 blocks. Each block is no greater than 100 square kilometres.
For cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, the entitled exploration area allocated to each contractor is 3,000 kilometres and consists of 150 blocks. Each block is no greater than 20 square kilometres.