News

August 8, 2019

ISA Talks Consider Development of Regulations on Deep-seabed Mining

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Lynn Wagner

The second part of the 25th annual session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which included meetings of the Authority’s Council and Assembly, focused on the Authority’s central consideration at this point in time: the development of the draft exploitation regulations on deep-seabed mining. These regulations, once concluded, will govern future activities in the world’s oceans.

The regulations will need to ensure environmental protection while simultaneously balancing stakeholders’ interests.

The ISA was established as an autonomous institution under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to organize and control activities in the Area, particularly with a view to administering the resources of the Area. “The Area” is defined as the seabed and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, and its “resources” as all solid, liquid, or gaseous mineral resources in situ in the Area at or beneath the seabed. Among other things, the ISA is mandated to provide for the necessary measures to ensure the effective protection for the marine environment from harmful effects, which may arise from mining activities in the Area.

During its 25th session, the Council delved into the draft exploitation regulations, submitted by the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), addressing provisions on, inter alia:

  • applications for approval of Plans of Work in the form of contracts;
  • rights and obligations of contractors; and
  • protection and preservation of the marine environment.

The Assembly considered the implementation of the Authority’s Strategic Plan 2019-2023, including adoption of the High-Level Action Plan and the corresponding key performance indicators. The Assembly also adopted criteria and guidelines for applications for observer status in the work of the Authority.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports that the July 2019 sessions were successful in advancing calls for environmental protection in deep-sea mining, operationalizing the Authority’s Strategic Plan, and shaping the organizational culture towards more participation and transparency. The increasing interest in the Authority’s work is testament to the increasing public awareness in deep-sea mining.

Participants also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the ISA with a special session on Thursday, 25 July, attracting national delegations from more than 70 countries. In celebrating the 25th Anniversary, delegates expressed their intention to “ensure a thorough and timely development of the regulations, bearing in mind that necessary standards and guidelines should be developed before their adoption.” In addition, there were reminders through the Council meeting that “the regulations’ development does not take place in a vacuum.” They are influenced by the strategic direction of the Authority, which, for the first time in its history, has begun implementing a Strategic Plan. This Plan, in turn, decides the ISA’s positioning in the global oceanic realm and in environmental governance.

The Council met from 15-19 July, and the Assembly from 22-26 July in Kingston, Jamaica. These meetings were preceded by meetings of the LTC (1-12 July) and the Finance Committee (8-10 July).

The ISA Assembly and ISA Council will next meet in February 2020.