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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

America's Economic Prosperity, Energy Security, and the Law of the Sea


Fact Sheet
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
November 2, 2011

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Joining the Law of the Sea Convention promotes economic prosperity for the United States by securing our economic rights to the energy resources of the continental shelf and by providing access to the vast mineral resources of the deep seabed. Exploration, management, and sustainable development of these resources by American companies can help meet our nation’s energy and mineral needs into the future, spur innovation, and support jobs in energy and mining, as well as in the U.S. manufacturing and services industries that support these sectors.

Joining the Law of the Sea Convention enables U.S. companies to find and develop valuable ocean resources:

· Securing Continental Shelf Rights: Only as a Party to the Convention could the United States put our rights on the firmest legal footing and take advantage of the treaty procedure that maximizes legal certainty and international recognition of the extended U.S. continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. American companies need this certainty and recognition to make job-creating investments and compete on a level playing field. The opportunity for American companies is vast since our extended continental shelf is estimated to encompass at least one million square kilometers. 

· Access to the Deep Seabed: The Law of the Sea Convention provides the legal framework for exploring and exploiting mineral resources on and beneath the seabed beyond areas of national jurisdiction (i.e., the deep seabed). Only a Party to the Convention can sponsor its companies to engage in deep seabed mining. A number of countries, including China, India, and Russia, are already engaged in exploration for deep seabed minerals, but U.S. companies are shut out because we are not a Party to the Convention and therefore cannot sponsor our companies.

Resources of the U.S. extended continental shelf and the deep seabed will enhance U.S. energy and materials security and future economic growth:

· Oil and Natural Gas: The energy resources contained in the U.S. extended continental shelf are believed by many to be significant, potentially equaling billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. Oil and natural gas from the extended continental shelf would provide greater stability in long-term energy supplies and prices, reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign oil and gas, and support jobs in the U.S. oil and gas industry. Employment in the oil and gas sector, along with those manufacturing and service industries that support it, is currently estimated at 2.2 million direct and indirect jobs.

· Metallic Minerals: Initial surveys suggest that the deep seabed holds large deposits of a number of metals such as cobalt, nickel, manganese, and copper, as well as rare earth elements. The United States is almost entirely dependent on foreign sources for its supply of cobalt, nickel, and manganese. Global supplies of rare earth elements—essential for cell phones, flat-screen televisions, electric car batteries, and other high-tech products—are currently in tight supply and produced almost exclusively by China. Joining the Convention will provide a mechanism for U.S. companies to obtain access to these deep seabed minerals and create jobs in an entirely new deep seabed mining industry.



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