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Legal Framework

International Legislation

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is mandated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind as a whole. ISA is made up of 167 member states and the European Union.

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

So far 31 exploration licenses are granted to 22 different contractors. Each contractor is backed by a sponsoring state.

See the map over exploration areas for minerals managed by ISA.

The legal framework for exploitation is ongoing and planned finalised and adopted by 2025. See the latest draft of The Mining Code for exploitation regulations.

Norwegian Legislation

The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy assumed responsibility for mineral deposits on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) in 2017. The “Seabed Minerals Act” was passed in 2019.

The Solberg government initiated an opening process for mineral activities on the Norwegain continental shelf (NCS), including an impact assessment in 2020. The program was adopted in September 2021 and is expected finalised within Q3, 2022. The basis for the decision is expected to be ready by Q2, 2023.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate assists the Ministry and co-ordinates the impact assessment process, which covers the following aspects:

  • Exploration and extraction; status, development trends and possibilities
  • Description of conditions relating to the environment
  • Environmental impact and relevant mitigation measures
  • Expected impact on businesses and relevant mitigation measures
  • Social and economic impact

Read more about the impact assessment.

Read the Parliament Notice - Meld.St.25 (2022-2023)

More information and reports related to the opening process for mineral activities on the Norwegian continental shelf can be found at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate webpage.