ABSTRACT:

The necessity to learn and understand the extent of natural environmental variability in an area before it can be subjected to planned human activities is becoming a paradigm of responsible approach to resource development and management. This is particularly true with respect of the deep seafloor and its mineral resources, polymetallic nodules in particular. Since its establishment in 1987, Interoceanmetal Joint Organization (IOM) has been collecting and collating data on various aspects of the marine environment in its area. A major portion of the available set of data was acquired when IOM was involved in the Benthic Impact Experiment (IOM BIE). In this presentation, we review the type and amount of environmental information contained in the IOM's database and confront it with the type and amount of environmental data contractors are expected to supply to the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

INTRODUCTION

The modern Man's quest for new sources of minerals has brought deep-sea polymetallic nodules to the centre of attention of the international mining community. Owing to the metals they contain, the deep-sea nodule deposits have become one of the world's major strategic resources; recent estimates set the nodule-contained manganese, nickel, copper, and cobalt resources at the levels of 7.5, 340, 265, and 78 million tonnes, respectively (Morgan, 2000). The richest nodule deposits, and, consequently, most mining claims registered with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) are located in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCFZ) nodule region of the subtropical eastern Pacific (Kotlinski, 2001, in press). The concerns are strengthened by the fact that the deep-sea realm is the largest and least known environment on Earth the variability of which, once thought of as virtually non-existent (e.g., Menzies, 1965), is becoming apparent, although temporal and spatial scales of variation in environmental parameters still remain in most part unresolved (Tyler, 1995).

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