The CCFZ and deep-sea mineral resources
The vast plains of the CCFZ are sites of large fields of manganese nodules. Manganese nodules are potato-shaped mineral aggregates containing manganese, copper, cobalt and nickel together with other metals, including rare earth elements. Nodules are generally found on the surface or partially buried in the sediments. There is widespread interest in these mineral resources. There are 12 contractors who have signed exploration contracts with the International Seabed Authority for areas within the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. For the exploration of nodules, the area for exploration allocated to the contractor is 75,000 sq. km. The map shows the areas allocated to contractors and other areas which are designated as areas of particular environmental interest. These are areas where no future exploitation is being considered.
Environmental monitoring and assessment
As part of the exploration licence, a contractor has to undertake environmental studies of their claim area. A comprehensive list of environmental variables have to be assessed. The ISA requires that the contractor makes an annual report detailing the environmental work undertaken and providing supporting data. While biodiversity data are collected the ability of contractors and the ISA to make regional assessments of the distribution and abundance of key species is hampered by the fact that many of the species encountered are new to science, there have been few opportunities for contractors to share data and there is no centralised species list. There is a general taxonomic impediment that is hampering comprehensive biodiversity assessment. This atlas is an attempt to standardise the identification of morphotypes of megafaunal organisms observed during surveys of the different sites within the CCFZ.