The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   S I G H T I N G S

Carter Hedges Bets on Sea Conference

The Carter Administration. is playing both sides of the fence on the issue of permitting U.S. corporations to mine the deep seabed prior to the establishment of international regulations for such activity.

Under pressure from mining interests and government agencies sympathetic to industry arguments, the White House did not oppose a Senate bill unilaterally authorizing U.S. multinationals to mine deep seabed nodules before completion of a treaty by the U.N. Law of the Sea Conference. The bill passed December 14 by a voice vote. In the House, however, the administration appears to be heeding the advice of Elliot Richardson, U.S. Ambassador to the conference; who urges consideration of similar legislation be postponed at least until the conclusion of the spring conference session.

Despite Richardson's warnings that passage of the Senate legislation would jeopardize "solid gains" and "encouraging progress" made during 1979, supporters of the bill convinced Carter not to reverse fully his 1977 endorsement of the legislation.

Major U.S. corporations like Lockheed, Kennecott Copper, U.S. Steel, Sedco and Standard Oil of Indiana are involved in four multinational seabed-mining consortia with Japanese, British, West German, Dutch and Canadian firms. European governments are poised to follow suit with unilateral mining laws once the U.S. takes the lead.

The 119 developing countries in the Law of the Sea Conference object to these pending measures. They have challenged their international legal validity, and view such actions as a violation of the rule of "good faith" in negotiations. Last spring, they implied that individual developing counries might seize the assets of any corporation that mined the seabed before the treaty is concluded. They predict that national legislation will be used in an attempt to exempt preexisting mining operations from the international regime that is established.\

- Lee Kimball

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