Top Story

1 Nov 2022

Informal working group on Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement

DR 102

We join other delegates in expressing our condolences and sympathies for the people of India and South Korea for the tragic events.

We agree with the Netherlands that monitoring of environmental effects should not be qualified by ‘where technically feasible”. 

In paragraph 2 bis the term “Plume dispersal” is too narrow and fails to account for plume trajectory, composition and biological effects, including the effects of chemical contamination of the water column In general there is no reference to species, either on the seabed or in the water column.

Secondly, in paragraph 2 (bis) we join the concerns of delegations including Costa Rica that the inclusion of adaptive management here is misplaced.Adaptive management must not be used where it is inconsistent with the precautionary approach – such as when there is inadequate information, which is indeed the case, and where the damage could be serious.

Thank you, Madam Facilitator,

DR 103

The excessively permissive nature of these regulations is seen in para 4, where the contractor is given the opportunity to make representations, following which the Compliance notice may be withdrawn.  

There are no provisions for Council members, observers or others to make representations. This is essential to transparency. There is no basis for only allowing the contractor to make representations and not to allow others to do so as well. In addition, any representation should be made public. 

This highlights one critical reason that the DSM regulations must not be adopted: contracts may be in existence for many decades, yet even serious, persistent or wilful violations may not give rise to termination of a contract.

In paragraph 6, seriousness of the violation does not itself include environmental effects consequent on the violation. This gives rise to issues of liability for the consequences of the violation, which has never been comprehensively discussed by the Council.

Informal working group on the protection and preservation of the marine environment 

Opening statement

Firstly, allow me to make a very brief observation on the fund. The idea that a compensation fund can be used to implement measures to “prevent” damage is flawed and misleading. By the very nature of compensation, the damage would already have been done. Furthermore, the ISA’s mandate is for the effective protection of the marine environment. It is therefore not acceptable to merely “limit” or “remediate” damage. It is suggested that this Fund might finance restoration and rehabilitation, but the Best Available Scientific Evidence suggests that neither would be possible in the fragile realm of the deep-sea.

Furthermore, offset compensation is essentially meaningless in the context of the deep sea, and is not a substitute for failing to effectively protect the marine environment. These ecosystems are often completely unique and do not grow back — this richness cannot be replaced. 

DR 56 also has a severe limitation: the fund would have no assets in it to cover mining operations unless miners were required to pay directly into the fund before any activities start. Annual contributions will not alter this fact. Unless contractors are willing to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars before they start mining, the Fund cannot be effective.

Having not had the opportunity yesterday, we hope the distinguished delegates will indulge two more general statements from the DSCC and our colleagues at Greenpeace, as we begin the working group that is central to our work as environmental NGOs. First and foremost, we would like to reiterate our thanks to the numerous States that spoke out yesterday to defend our liberty to participate in these discussions. As concerns surrounding deep-sea mining grow, the number of Observers has grown also, and we are working together to streamline our interventions.

The DSCC consists of over 100 organisations, a number of whom are sitting by our side here today. Collectively, the Coalition membership and their supporters represent several million people concerned for nature and for both human and non-human life. For too long, our species has pillaged and plundered the Earth, systematically violating the web of life that we are part of.  We often refer to the ISA’s obligation to act for the benefit of humankind as a whole. But perhaps it is time for us to start acting for the benefit of allkind. Deep-sea mining will have fatal consequences for life in the deep; life that holds intrinsic value and is also intricately connected to the well-being of our own species – because these life forms are part of the biological carbon pump that keeps us breathing, part of the trophic chains that sustain our fisheries.

We all acknowledge the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels, but there is a biodiversity crisis as well: opening up a whole new planetary frontier of biodiversity loss and endangering one of the most important natural carbon sinks is only going to create new problems, not resolve existing ones. There are other, more sustainable pathways to be found in rapidly evolving technological and social solutions. 

The discussions unfolding here at the ISA are not just about deep-sea mining. They are about whether or not we decide to perpetuate the extractive paradigm that is leading inexorably to the demise of life as we know it. There is a fundamental decision to make: do we continue down the same unsustainable pathways of extraction? Or are we on the cusp of a new era: an era where we tread more lightly in our world? 

There have been some notable developments since we last met, including the highly questionable ‘approval’ of the NORI test mine, by email under the silence procedure and without the full participation of the LTC. Council was not notified, let alone given the opportunity to review the test mine EIS and the ensuing ‘decision’. As a result, test mining has begun in the Pacific, and no States have actually said “yes” to it. 

We would finally like to take this opportunity to congratulate New Zealand on their recently announced moratorium position, and Germany and Panama on their stances in favour of a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining. We also pay our deepest respects to the 8 other countries that have in the last 6 months expressed support for a moratorium or precautionary pause. Needless to say, we stand by your side and call urgently for a moratorium or pause on potentially the largest mining operation in the history of humankind. It is not needed, it is not wanted. 

DR 60

Delivered by Oceans North on behalf of Oceans North and DSCC

This intervention is also on behalf of DSCC, and our intervention is underpinned by the important scientific clarification provided by DOSI.

At the outset, I want to stress that we believe the ecological damage, scientific uncertainties, and institutional deficiencies require a moratorium on DSM. But if a closure plan is to be discussed, we have a few comments.

If you would humour me briefly, could the delegates under 30 years of age raise their hands? 

What about the delegates under 25 years of age? 

I ask because in this section we are discussing closures that would happen decades from now, when the effects of mining are impacting the youth of today and the generations who come after us. 

Now onto the specifics, paragraph 1 states that the Contractor only needs to submit its closure plan 24 months prior to the planned end of mining, which would be decades away, it should instead be done at the time of application. 

On a few other points: The Closure and any post-closure monitoring plan should be approved by the Council, as DOSI said, and in paragraphs 2-5 the Council should have an opportunity to review the documents.

The proposed public consultation provisions would be many decades – or lifetimes – before any closure occurs. Thus,  public consultation would need to be ongoing, as these projects will span generations who will all be burdened with the damage that would have been caused by deep-sea mining. We are discussing an industry that wouldl impact people who would have had no say in these negotiations, or in the latter application procedures,  and that is a breach of intergenerational justice. 

31 Oct 2022

Brazil

  • Brazil called for “close attention to environmental externalities, so that exploitation of minerals in the area starts only when robust and science-based legal frameworks are developed, completed and adopted, without any plan of work for exploitation being approved or any contract being granted.”
  • They also highlighted that “There is an increasing awareness of the dramatic impact of these activities on the marine ecosystems.”
  • Brazil also called for the ISA to be more transparent – including the Legal and Technical Commission, and that issues of confidentiality need to be discussed.

Continue reading Key statements by States – 31.10.22

31 Oct 2022

DSCC ISA Council Meeting Opening Media Release 

As final preparations for the landmark UN climate and biodiversity conferences get underway, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), based in Kingston, Jamaica, pushes to develop regulations that if adopted, would see our planet’s largest carbon store opened to the biggest mining operation in human history.

Continue reading PRESS RELEASE: Civil society call on ISA member States to hit the brakes on destructive deep-sea mining

5 Aug 2022

Media Release – For Immediate Release

Negotiations to open the ocean to the largest mining operation in human history come to a close as resistance from country delegations, scientists and NGOs escalates. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition have been present throughout negotiations and call for ISA member States to urgently turn words into action and call on the Authority for a stop to the destructive industry before it starts.

Over the past three weeks negotiations have taken place in a hotel in Kingston, Jamaica to agree a Mining Code which if adopted, would see the Earth’s largest remaining wilderness area opened to large-scale commercial deep-sea mining as soon as next July. Observers including NGOs and scientists have been relegated to a windowless basement room for the duration of the meetings.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) continued to push ahead with developing regulations for the nascent industry. At the same time, an increasing number of countries emphasised the obligation of the ISA under international law to ensure the effective protection of the international seabed (which accounts for around 50 per cent of the total area of the world’s ocean) from the harmful effects of deep-sea mining activities.

As country delegations took the floor, it became quickly apparent that the tide has begun to turn on the controversial industry in the face of growing awareness of the irreversible and large-scale damage deep-sea mining would have for people and planet, if authorised to go ahead. Numerous countries including Costa Rica, Chile, Spain, Ecuador and Micronesia called for the ISA to hit the brakes on deep-sea mining, highlighting concerns that the world is not in a position to move forward with the emerging industry in the absence of the necessary independent scientific information.

Micronesia also raised the prospect of a moratorium on deep-sea mining for the first time during negotiations, stating that they had joined the Alliance of Countries Calling for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium launched by Palau at the UN Ocean Conference. Delegations including New Zealand, Brazil, Singapore and Italy also stated that environmental protection must be guaranteed before deep-sea mining could move forward and numerous States and observers clearly indicated that many of the issues under negotiation at the ISA are far from being resolved. Indeed, Tonga, a sponsoring state of would-be miners, Tonga Offshore Mining Limited owned by The Metals Company, commented that they were concerned by the apparent lack of progress to develop regulations.

Credit: NOAA

Australia, the UK and Nauru, the latter two countries also sponsoring states, reiterated their call to progressing regulations and France stated their determination to adopt “a legal framework with rigorous environmental protections to ensure that harm to ecosystems in the marine environment is minimised.” Conversely, during the UN Oceans Conference at the end of June, President Emmanuel Macron called for a legal framework to stop mining on the high seas.

The clock is ticking on deep-sea mining, due to the triggering of an obscure legal provision known as the 2 year rule by Nauru on behalf of the mining company it sponsors, NORI, also owned by The Metals Company. However, calls grew from observers and numerous States that this timeline may not necessarily lead to mining. Costa Rica consistently highlighted that the rule was triggered during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and Chile called for a full discussion on whether the 2-year timeline was indeed meaningful. The debate however was postponed by the President of the ISA Assembly, squeezing it under what was essentially ‘AOB’. 

Concerns mounted throughout the meetings that the ISA is not transparent, fit for purpose, nor acting on behalf of humankind. Tight restrictions on access were imposed on scientists, NGOs, country delegations and media by the ISA secretariat and some journalists were denied access entirely. On the first day of the meeting, the Secretariat turned off the live web stream, cutting off access to the negotiations to stakeholders including state delegations, many observers and media alike that were unable to attend the meeting. The move prompted significant backlash and eventually led to the live broadcast being switched back on. The Authority’s Secretary General, Michael Lodge also faced demands from Chile for United Nations level independent financial audits and complaints from Costa Rica of failing to show necessary impartiality.  

During the ISA’s Assembly crucial debate on the 2 year rule,  NGOs and scientists were cut off after 3 minutes, with no prior warning. Far from having time limitations, the meeting finished a day and a half early.

“Rather than acting on behalf of all of humankind, the ISA continues to demonstrate a deep-rooted industry driven agenda. Silencing voices that question the path to extraction, including NGOs and scientists, during negotiations illustrates the Authority’s clear and inherent conflict of interest.”

Emma Wilson, representing OceanCare throughout negotiations

In recent months, deep-sea mining has become a flagship issue for ocean health with  governments, Parliamentarians, scientists, civil society, companies, fisheries associations and huge swathes of the public all calling for an urgent stop to the destructive industry. The DSCC continues to urge ISA member States to call on the Authority for a stop to the destructive industry and to prioritise planetary health for present and future generations. 

“A growing number of countries are beginning to challenge the arcane rules under which the ISA operates, and reject assertions that the world needs to mine the deep-sea to build batteries for electric vehicles. What is needed is more responsible land-based mining practices, investment in circular economy initiatives, and to make much better use of the metals and materials we already have in circulation rather than opening a whole new frontier of the planet to destructive industrial resource extraction”.   

Matthew Gianni, representing Earthworks at negotiations

“ISA member States are waking up to the critical need to defend the deep in the face of what would be an environmental catastrophe, the likes of which we have never seen. It’s time for States to go further and join the alliance of countries calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, launched by Palau.” 

Duncan Currie, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition 
4 Aug 2022

Belgium

  • Noted no consensus on the proposal to allow contractors observer status.
  • Stated that the delegation are all for inclusivity, “but for efficiency, it is good for member states AND observers who work with joint statements or to work together in any other way so that was the gist of my comment”
  • On the two year rule: “During part 1 and part 2 of the Council this year. Some progress has been made on the exploitation regulations but the task ahead is enormous. We should continue the work in a structured and efficient manner. The adoption of royalty mechanism threshold and standards, regional environmental plans and financing are only 2 of them.”
  • “The regulations should be based on the precautionary approach which does not allow for artificial deadlines. The likely outcome is that at the end of the 2 year period this will not be done. Legal uncertainty is something we do not need. The stakes for mankind are too high. We look forward to the November discussion on the what if scenario. As seen in the roadmap we agreed upon in December 2021.”
  • On the next assembly meeting – “It will be a bit strange that we will be holding 2 weeks of council meetings after the deadline has passed. Lots of interventions where a lot of possible legal questions have been raised. Council should meet prior to the deadline. Another two weeks might be necessary to advance even more.”

Continue reading Key statements by States – 4/8/22