Views & Analysis

19 Jul 2022

Views and Analysis

18-19 July 2022

Negotiations at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to rush through a mining code for the emerging destructive deep-sea mining industry have begun this week in Jamaica, amid mounting concerns that the body charged with regulating the industry, were it to go ahead, is not fit for purpose.

The continuation of the ISA’s 27th Council meeting has seen civil society and scientists relegated to a windowless basement room, with a live feed to the main negotiating room at the Knutsford Hotel in Kingston.

Despite the restrictions on participation, which were heavily protested by States and Observers alike, the meeting has seen the largest civil society presence in the ISA’s history, a response to growing concerns over the many risks the industry poses to people and planet.

Opening interventions from observer delegations highlighted the clear industry driven agenda embedded within the Mining Code proposed by the International Seabed Authority to regulate the emerging industry with independent scientific assessment entirely missing. The rush to mine the deep has been catalyzed by Nauru Ocean Resources Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian would-be miners, The Metals Company, who activated a little known two-year trigger rule, meaning that strip-mining the deep could begin as early as 2023, with whatever rules and regulations are in place.

The DSCC noted the omission of the agreement reached in March on the economic valuation of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration via the marine biological pump; tuna and other fisheries and potential future benefits from marine genetic resources to both current and future generations as well as valuing the damage that would be caused to these ecosystem services by deep-sea mining. The DSCC highlighted the need for a moratorium due to the damage that would be caused by deep-sea mining, the lack of scientific information and the shortcomings of the ISA. Earthworks questioned why the ISA would allow environmental damage in the first place, how could it be justified, and how is humankind be fully and fairly compensated, both present and future generations, for the loss of species, biodiversity, degradation of marine ecosystems when there is no justifiable societal need to open the deep-sea to mining. 

Monday also saw a firefight on the floor of negotiations on the issue of transparency as UN Web TV, the platform that many government officials,  NGOs, media and interested members of the public were relying on to follow negotiations remotely due to the strict restrictions on participation, was abruptly switched off by the Secretariat of the ISA. There was no prior notification, debate or decision by the countries participating in the meeting Council that the webcasting of the meeting would be turned off. This move, together with numerous reports of media access to the meeting being denied, highlights the glaring lack of transparency within the Authority.

States including Chile, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, Spain, Dominican Republic, New Zealand and Belgium joined observers in calling for full transparency and the reinstatement of the live broadcast. Morocco and France supported turning off the webcasting of the meeting on the basis that negotiators can speak more freely if it is not webcast. An intense debate followed and Costa Rica called for a vote at which point Morocco and France backed down. The DSCC thanked Canada, Costa Rica, Chile, Italy, Spain, Dominican Republic, NZ, and others for supporting transparency and continued webcasting. The Coalition added that the Aarhus Convention on public participation, which is endorsed in the CCZ EMP, and to which many European States are party, requires transparency in fora such as these. Earthworks highlighted the obligation of the ISA under international law to ‘act on behalf of’ and ‘for the benefit of’ humankind as a whole and that any member of the public should be able to follow meetings of the ISA. Given that many delegates had intended to attend physically,  but changed those plans because of the restrictions, intending to participate virtually, turning off live streaming was a double blow. 

The DSCC also brought attention to the decision made by Tuvalu to rescind its deep sea exploration sponsorship,  underlining the issues of environmental damage, liability and common stewardship responsibility faced by sponsoring States, and that this was the first case of a sponsoring State taking such a step. The Coalition asked why there was no mention in the ISA documents or website of that.

Meanwhile,  accusations of bullying, nepotism, accounting  and impropriety within the ISA Secretariat, largely leveled at the Authority’s Secretary General, Michael Lodge, have been made  in a series of social media posts

The highly restrictive access to negotiations for NGOs and scientists and the argument about broadcasting the negotiations together with these new reports of apparent misconduct within the Authority paint a picture of an Authority unfit to regulate what would be the largest mining operation in human history if permitted to go ahead. The DSCC calls for reform of the Authority so that it becomes an effective protector of the deep ocean in areas beyond national jurisdiction – the global ocean commons. Until States agree to review and reform the ISA,  a moratorium is the only way forward. 

31 Mar 2022

We’ve reached the penultimate day of International Seabed Authority (ISA) negotiations, as the Authority seeks to rush through discussions on how to regulate a looming extractive industry threatening the farthest reaches of our ocean: deep-sea mining. As this session nears its end, the DSCC and other NGOs continue to call for a moratorium on this destructive practice that would leave permanent scars on the seabed and cause wide scale damage in areas far beyond the areas directly mined.

Continue reading The gloves come off – 31/3/22

30 Mar 2022

Negotiations of draft rules and regulations, that could regulate the looming deep-sea mining industry were it to go ahead, entered their 8th day today in Kingston Jamaica.

Today’s session opened with an address from the International Seabed Authority (ISA’s) Secretary General, followed by the Chair of the Authority’s Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), presenting a report which included the development of Regional Environmental Monitoring Plans (REMPs), contract extensions, applications for new exploratory licences and an update on would be miners’ Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Continue reading On a sticky wicket: Delegates continue to be stumped by inadequate draft deep-sea mining regulations – 30/3/22 

29 Mar 2022

On the 7th day of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) meeting to rush through regulations that would allow the commercial exploitation of the deep sea to begin, negotiations continued. The morning session focused on compliance and enforcement regulations, moving to institutional matters in the afternoon.

The DSCC continued to highlight that the ISA is not fit for purpose and therefore cannot regulate any proposed mining operations in the deep ocean, which would dwarf anything humanity has seen before if it were permitted to go ahead.

Continue reading Keeping the lid on Pandora’s box – 29/3/22

29 Mar 2022

Today marked the beginning of the second week of the International Seabed Authority (ISA)’s 27th Council meeting to continue the rapid development of rules and regulations that, if agreed, would open the deep-sea to deep-sea mining as soon as July 2023.

Discussions were supposed to be largely dedicated to developing the standards and guidelines, which would form a key part of the rules and regulations for deep-sea mining, if the industry were to go ahead. However, the negotiations were cut short and moved quickly onto a detailed discussion of compliance and enforcement of the emerging industry with very little attention paid to the standards and guidelines. 

Continue reading A clear demonstration that the ISA is not fit for purpose – 28/3/22

25 Mar 2022

Day five saw continued discussion at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) on proposed deep-sea mining regulations, focusing on the environmental impacts of the damaging industry. If the proposed Mining Code were to be adopted, commercial strip-mining in the deep sea could begin as soon as 2023. 

The morning’s discussions focused on the proposal for an environmental compensation fund (ECF). The DSCC raised significant concerns that liability and responsibility issues have not been discussed at the ISA. The proposed fund would be supposed to come into play if deep-sea mining were to go ahead and contractors did not have sufficient funds to compensate for damages incurred. The DSCC highlighted in today’s talks that it is highly likely that contractors would not have sufficient funds to cover such costs- and could, in essence, walk away from their responsibilities. This is made worse by the fact that the Council isn’t discussing ‘effective control’ – how (or if) the sponsoring State controls the contractor, in reality. The DSCC has been raising these issues with the ISA for years.

Continue reading What would be at stake if risky deep-sea mining were to go ahead? 25/3/22

24 Mar 2022

Today at the International Seabed Authority’s (ISA) 27th meeting to develop regulations for the emerging deep-sea mining industry, negotiations continued on the proposed environmental regulations.

A key issue emerging from today’s negotiations was around industry self-regulation. The ISA’s proposed regulations would essentially allow contractors to set their own rules that would leave the ocean open to irreversible environmental damage on multigenerational timescales. The DSCC’s Duncan Currie warned that “relying on the contractor to monitor themselves is akin to allowing the fox to monitor the chicken pen.”

Continue reading Allowing The Fox to Monitor the Chickens – 24/3/22