This month, a small group of diplomats is meeting to hash out a plan that could affect the future of nearly half of Earth’s surface — including regions containing metals that are vital for the energy transition, like nickel, copper, cobalt, and manganese.

That group is the International Seabed Authority, or ISA, an autonomous international organization tasked with regulating mining on the ocean floor, in waters outside any nation’s jurisdiction. On July 9, the regulatory body missed an important legal deadline to finalize those rules. Now the ISA is scrambling to complete them, or agree to a fall-back plan, before companies start applying for deep-sea mining permits.

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