Latest News and Updates

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.”

Chile 

Made the following statement on the two year rule:

  • As we have already mentioned several times including during the council meeting last week actually expresses its concern as to the activation of paragraph 15 of Section One of the agreement”
  • The request, presented by Nauru into 2020 at one of the worst times internationally of the Pandemic has pushed us to a situation that is unprecedented and there are different interpretations as to how to interpret subparagraph C of this paragraph”
  •  We consider that it’s necessary that the assembly as a supreme organ where all the states parties take part on an equal footing can consider and deliberate this topic.
  • There is no better forum than this one, to be able to express ourselves and listen to one another.
  •  And therefore it seems surprising that more than half of the member states are not present today in this room. 
  • To our mind, there are a couple of questions we need to ask ourselves. 
  • Are we really willing to allow the beginning of underwater mining without having to protect the common heritage of mankind? And under that hypotheses, could we look our children into the eye and show them that we have done everything that was possible to defend this heritage? 
  • A week ago, 161 votes four and eight against the UN approved a resolution that states that all beings have the right to a healthy environment. 
  • The contractors that wish to begin activities underwater can they assure us that with their activities we will have a healthy environment and that the submarine ecosystem must suffer severe damage? No they can’t. It’s us. 
  • We who are gathered in this room are called upon to protect the common heritage of mankind, as established by the convention.
  •  And many experts have indicated in all languages, that the scientific knowledge is still insufficient, and that we have a very limited understanding of the effects of the potential exploitation activities on the seabed, and particularly as to the role of the seabed as a carbon sink, and therefore, some of these actions could have devastating consequences on the marine ecosystems and could release untold greenhouse gases into the atmosphere pushing us further away from the objectives of the Paris Agreement. 
  • Are we willing to be accomplices to the unknown and irreparable damages that deep sea mining might cause?
  •  My delegation can only respond on behalf of Chile The answer is no. 
  • As a signatory country, Chile wishes to continue the negotiating process to reach solid rules on exploitation that are solid holistic and protect the seabed but we do not agree that these tasks be carried out by implementing an insufficient deadline or timeline. 
  • This is why Chile is respectfully calling upon this assembly to consider carefully the situation and cooperation with the organs of the authority,  take decisions based on science based on the cautionary approach and with an eye towards sustainability.
  •  As we have already indicated Chile considers it necessary that the authority continue to work towards developing the regulations but without any pressure. 
  • This is why and based on the mandate and powers conferred upon us by articles 151 53 157 161 62 of UNCLOS we suggest the idea that we establish a cautionary pause of 15 years, a period during which we cannot approve plans for exploitation. And this will allow us to continue to work in a serious and responsible way towards developing the exploitation rules that we all wish for. 
  • We need to discuss this idea amongst others which is why Chile will try to create spaces for a dialogue at the highest level during the next meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in September in order to continue searching for alternatives which ensure a real commitment towards conservation and the health of oceans in the long run. And we also hope to continue the dialogue in November with the members of the council. 
  • We make an appeal to all the member states to commit themselves towards the authority and to work hand in hand to bring our positions closer and find the best solution to move forward and leave the standstill and devote our energies towards crafting the best regulations that we can whether this takes 15,20 or any number of years necessary.
  • Chile also proposed to bring forward the meeting of the Assembly to the first quarter and if necessary to meet in July, stating that delegates would only need to pay for 2.5 days.

Italy 

  • Stated that “we are strongly committed to a sustainable science based use of marine natural resources, for the preservation of the ecosystems integrity and to the creation of an institutional regulatory framework for the exploitation of the mineral resources of the area using scientific knowledge, the precautionary principle and the ecosystem based approach.”
  • “Italy shapes its own mining culture based on sustainability throughout the lifespan of the mind from research to environmental restoration. We believe this should also apply to seabed mining activities. In this context deep sea mining should not commence as we stated also previously, until we prove prior to the authorization exploitation contracts, strong regulatory framework, ensure that the environmental effects associated with activities in the area do not create detriment to deep sea ecosystems.”

New Zealand 

  • New Zealand considered the discussion on 2 year rule important and thanked Chile for proposing it.
  • “We are focused on developing regulations that ensure environmental protection and need to discuss what happens next. New Zealand consider paragraph 15 of the 1994 agreement does not require the council to approve the regulation or a plan of work. It requires the council to adopt those regulations eventually. And if they are not up to the mark environmentally the council should not adopt them. We are committed to protecting our ocean.”

Costa Rica

Costa Rica made the following statement on the 2 year rule:

  • Costa Rica is concerned about the way in which due to the triggering by one delegation of the so called two year rule, there’s an effort to constrain and oblige states to, in a haphazard way come up with a legal framework, which is of the utmost importance when speaking about the exploitation regulations.
  •  Many of the provisions are still at the fledgling stage, we need to be very clear that annex one paragraph 15 is a legal recourse established in the implementation agreement. However, this is one of the many matters in which our legal framework is not clear and is liable to be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, the rule indicates in a) that the council may undertake such an elaboration of rules, regulations and procedures needed for the development of activities in the area in two scenarios. 
  1. Anytime the council deems that all or any of such rules, regulations and procedures are required for the conduct of activities in the area
  2.  Or a request of a state, whose national intends to apply for an approval of a plan of work?
  • Those are the two alternate options. So in this situation, the council had already used alternate option one we had already undertaken the drafting of the regulation for exploitation since July 2019. This gives rise to our first debt. If the article speaks about alternative options, then is it legally viable to resort to the second option when the council has already started the elaboration of regulations in 2019, using the first alternative.
  •  Now to turn to our second doubt, and that is the validity of resorting to the two year rule in the midst of a pandemic, when it was practically impossible to advance in our deliberations much less conclude deliberations. 
  • My deviation would question that validity firstly, because in triggering the two year rule, we did so using none of the rationale for which this was included in the text. 
  • If we read the relevant text, it’s noted that this article is included for it to cover two situations. 
  • Firstly, a state is ready to start exploitation and negotiations of the regulations have not yet begun. That was not the case. 
  • Second scenario is a state is ready to exploit and in the context of the negotiations a stalemate has been reached. Neither does that apply. 
  • We are wondering about the legal validity also because although UNCLOS doesn’t speak to what happens in cases of force majeure, there is a principle that all lawyers learn at the outset of learning of studying the law. 
  • That is ‘nobody is obliged to do the impossible.’ As such, can timeline be triggered when there is force majeure that impedes its fulfilment? My delegation believes not.
  • There are many other matters on which we have very little legal certainty. For example, paragraph C of the article states that if the two year rule elapses and the council has not finished developing the rules and there is a pending plan of action for exploitation, the council may approve that plan of work on a provisional basis.
  • Therefore, what happens if the two years elapsed and that plan of work has not been submitted? In this case, there would not be a pending request. Does that mean that the timeframe elapses and must be reactivated or triggered again, if there is a pending request. What does it mean to provisionally adopt or approve it? In the provisional law of treaties, it speaks of temporality… therefore, could, the council decide to approve it in a short timeframe, while work on the regulations goes on. What type of rights does provisional granting or approval give it? What steps must be taken by contractors to fulfil their obligations vis a vis  the definitive regulations once they have been adopted from approved if the approved initial approval was provisional?
  • There are many more doubts than areas of clarity and this is really open to misinterpretation. Perhaps it might be worth addressing these questions to the body that implements our legal framework. Namely ITLOS In addition, as previously stated, Costa Rica believes that legally speaking, there is no obligation to conclude the negotiations in two years. Firstly, because this very article says that the timeframe can lapse without regulations having been elaborated.
  • Also, because there are principles at play here that we as humanity must apply the precautionary approach. 
  • There are principles at play here namely that when there is nature should be given the benefit of that doubt. And here we are referring to article 145 of the Convention, which imposes on us an obligation to effectively protect the marine environment from the harm that may derive from activities in the area. 
  • Exploration has occurred in less than 1% of the deep seabed
  • We know hardly anything about the marvellous species that live there. And if we don’t know anything about them, how can we protect them? Without the necessary information for establishing baselines without having the knowledge on the effects that mining will have on species but also on the carbon that is captured at the seabed that could be released into the environment, it is impossible to develop rules, regulations and procedures which will allow the LTC to assess plans of work in fulfilment of their obligations under the convention. 
  • Therefore, Costa Rica believes that there is a need to implement a precautionary pause we should use the last eight years that remain of the UN Decade of ocean science to promote and finance marine scientific research that will allow us to gain knowledge with regard to what is at the deep seabed before we take actions that will cause irreversible harm. 
  • This is an immense responsibility and is on all of our shoulders. As a result ,we cannot achieve all of this in one year, two year or five years. We need time to do it properly. And as the proverb says, better to do things properly done with haste. 

On bringing forward the Assembly meeting:

  • “In line with what was said by Chile. When we were speaking about the 2-year rule which has to be complied with by next summer. It’s an important issue to be discussed, if it cannot be discussed now. If the next assembly session is in July, it will be quite late. Therefore, it’s vital for us that we have an opportunity to discuss this as an Assembly not just as a council before July. whether in the form of an extraordinary season in April or a regular session in July or move the session in april and then convene an extraordinary session in July. Either is fine with us.”
  • “Costa Rica is gravely concerned that we are simply told that it is complicated to respond to a request by a state party. We are the authority. We should not simply be told that things are not complicated. In December 2021 – a meeting was arranged in 2 months with venue and interpreter.” 
  • “We are a little surprised that we are simply told that things are complicated. It was more complicated in July. We have not had the chance to discuss a very important issue. Very complicated to prepare a report in 8 months. There should be reports that we can present in July and have a special assembly to present. And not just have the argument that it is complicated because we know it is very important.”
  • On cutting off observers: “Cutting off abruptly the observers is not ideal. It’s not like we have reached 6 pm on Friday and we have to finish. I would like to apologise to the observers because I want to hear what they have to say.”

Cuba

  • Thanked the delegation of Chile for the proposal with regard to continuing to hold discussions on 2 year rule. They also stated “We need to continue the negotiations of the exploitation regulations.”

Australia

  • “Australia respects that in activating the 2-year trigger, Nauru was exercising their rights under international law. There is a considerable amount of work to do on the regulations.  Australia is committed to finalize the regulations and associated instruments by July next year. We want to meet the deadlines on 1994 agreement.”

Russia

  • “We need to think well, not procrastinate, so not be excessively slow. I would like to thank Costa Rica for a solid legal remark which was very well founded. We also agree with the message that in the case of a dispute we would need to refer the issue to the ITLOS.”

Spain

Made the following statement on the two year rule:

  • We have said that the matter of the 2 year rule is concerning for us. That is because it is a Damocles sword that is hanging over us. The time has come for us to decide something. There are legal arguments pro and anti this proposal.It would be very sad if the LTC was obliged to recommend the approval of a plan of work when provisions are not finalized. However there are other provisions for example Art 15 which allow interested states to express their interest in progressing to an exploitation phase.
  • In my view, there are too many legal uncertainties. Therefore, I support what was said by the delegations who took the floor before me. Perhaps it would not be inappropriate to resort to the ITLOS and ask for an advisory opinion, an advisory opinion that would not be made immediately it would be issued when plans have been discussed because general countries aren’t ready to present exploit exploitation plans and so it could be referred to ITLOS when necessary. So we would reiterate the need to find a consensus based solution
  • Here we are dealing with a common good. I’m a diplomat and there are many diplomats here and it’s important that the spirit that we engage in these discussions is to try and find a compromise solution and compromise between the authority, the interested state, other states represented. 
  • So perhaps as those who have spoken before me, we can agree on a pause because article 15 clearly says that the council, and speaking of paragraph C, must ‘consider’ 
  • But ‘consider’ does not mean that the council is obliged to approve. On the other hand, if provisional approval is granted, well, provisional is the key word provisional until there are adequate regulations governing a mining code. So, approval would be definitive from that point on, but provisional would not necessarily mean approval to exploit.

Nauru

  • “We are clear. We propose to  reconsider the new agenda item given the limited time Chile submitted this for the consideration of the Assembly.”

Ecuador

The delegation made the following statement:

  • “Ocean covers roughly 70% of the surface of our planet. And they host more than 80% of the forms of life that exists. 
  • The oceans without a deal to generate are roughly 50% of the oxygen necessary to our life and our fundamental to capture co2 and the heat that this generates. 
  • Moreover, we consider that the oceans are a source of food security, but they protect us against the effects of climate change and are the lung that maintains our Earth and makes it healthy and makes it possible to exercise our rights to life, health, water, nutrition, and of course, the right to a balanced, healthy environment. 
  •  I believe that right now we are not ready. We need to be aware of this and precisely uphold these principles stemming from UNCLOS. If we act with haste, we could put ourselves in irreversible situations affecting the marine environment and its ecosystems
  • We agree with article 145 of UNCLOS which we’ll see clearly establishes specified parameters for the particular for the protection of the marine environment of the area
  • This should be respected and global efforts should aim at protecting oceans appropriately by 2030 using mechanisms of regional alliances which strengthens the migratory routes, the cycles of reproduction and  the resources of the seabed
  • We therefore are grateful for the proposal of Chile, we support this initiative to postpone the timeline that has been supported by others and continue the debate.”

South Africa

  • On the two year rule and referring the matter to ITLOS: “The stakes are very high compared to the stakes in 2011. So the question now is, why are we hesitant if we are in referring this matter to ITLOS for an advisory opinion, when the stakes are high, whereas when the stakes were not as high as this high in 2011, we managed to do that and we did receive a good advisory opinion.”

Singapore

  • Stated that: “We recognize that without robust scientific knowledge, deep-sea mining poses risks of irreversible damage. In the absence of safeguards, DSM should not proceed. We note the invoking of the 2 year rule. A year before this deadline remains. If and when deep-sea mining happens there must be a robust safeguard. We are committed to developing an environmentally robust legal framework and ensure DSM is consistent with IL including rules procedures and regulations of the ISA.”

Kiribati 

  • “Regarding the proposal made by Chile…our capital needs better consultation on this proposal. We request we are not in a position to support this proposal. Could we discuss the inclusion of this item in the next meeting.”

Pakistan

  • “Having heard these arguments on the Chilean proposal – we need universally accepted regulations that ensure the protection of the marine environment and this requires time. We also know that some seek financial advantages with DSM. However we need time to achieve meaningful regulations.”

Argentina

  • “The position of our country is of commitment. After 2 years of suspension of negotiation for the exploitation of resources in the area we consider we should not postpone for an indefinite time. 
  • We should respect however the time needed for a good framework. It is also important to work for a regime that gives us legal certainty and guarantees.
  • Considering the level of importance and specifically there are technical environmental and financial challenges that should be considered taking into account DSM needs to take into account best practices and Ca respect for CHM. We should also figure out royalty systems. 
  • We understand there is legal uncertainty regarding the 2 year clause and its consequences. We need more time for studying possible scenarios in case we do not succeed in adopting regulations in 2 years.”

UK

  • Suggested deciding whether to bring forward the next Assembly meeting in the November Council session.
1 Aug 2022

Acting Assembly President

  • “Stated that he Common heritage of mankind belongs to all of us. The eyes of civil society are on us also, and thank and encourage them to continue to engage while respecting our rules.”

ISA Secretary General

  • Stated that “…the council meeting worked very well and was quite a seamless experience for delegates despite technical challenges.”

Chile

  • Stated that “We all know that there’s an elephant in the room… and we have not had the opportunity to debate in person and I believe this is the best opportunity to discuss here in the assembly. I believe that more than taking a decision, we need to hear one another and present various ideas in order to find what to do next. We are less than a year away from the deadline mentioned in Part 15 of the implementation agreement, of Part 11 of UNCLOS, and this is why we decided rather than waiting until next year, that we need to consider to  discuss this now and present our ideas on what we hope to do.”

Costa Rica

  • Supported Chile’s proposal, “with enthusiasm” stating that “Since this is a matter that many of us have mentioned in our interventions, we’ve never had a specific space to discuss it. Time is running out, we have a deadline that some consider that some consider meaningful and others not, and we are making efforts to develop regulations, but all of us in the council noted there is a lot more work to do.”
  • Called for strengthening of ocean governance in and beyond national jurisdiction and that they look forward to BBNJ treaty .
  • The delegation stated their commitment to continue to constructively engage in ISA negotiations to develop a solid, fair, environmentally sound regulations that guarantees protection of marine environment as per Article 145.

Nauru

  • Stated that “Chile’s submission for this discussion will derail the 27th session and the roadmap” and that the delegation are cognisant that “there may come a time to discuss this, but Chile’s position will lead to polarization and politicising of Nauru’s legal right to exploration and exploitation, especially as a pacific state, we cannot support this inclusion, there are elements we need to counter, and we have not prepared.”

Spain

  • Supported the inclusion of Chile’s proposed agenda item on the two year rule stating that “It seems to me that it is always good to speak as this strengthens transparency and increases visibility. The goal isn’t to reach position, but to exchange opinions.”

UK

  • The UK delegation stated that the discussion on ‘what if’ scenarios was scheduled by the Council for the 31st of October to November meeting and that has been in the roadmap since December.

Tonga

  • Tonga stated that they “had not had ample time to coordinate this request with capital, so there is a sense of uneasiness, without receiving proper direction, however I recognize the intent of the proposal is to open discussion but we recognize that we are still in the middle of two year rule so there is still time to take action. I feel that in due course we will have to come to that in terms of trying to force the way forward after the two year period.”
  • They also stated that sea levels will continue to rise and that SIDS more vulnerable with current baselines threatened.

Brazil

  •  Stated that Chile’s proposal was important and that they “believe it is important to include it in the agenda because the time has come, maybe not to discuss in depth, but to discuss methods and a way to move forward with this so therefore the Brazil delegation would like to support the proposal to include the topic.” They highlighted the need for greater understanding of human activities on the ocean and full transparency.
  • They also called for promotion of deep sea literacy and “fundamental steps towards strengthening the ISA role in the ocean global governance.”
  • The delegation added that “A robust code of conduct, standard & guidelines must be put in place before any activity is approved. Interrelated with ISA mandate. The ISA needs to ensure coherence between our mission and the evolution of international law, for example BBNJ. “

China

  • Called to improve ISA regime and that the development of regulations is a priority. The delegation added that regulations need to balance exploitation and protection based on scientific facts and evidence, strengthen and improve regime 
  • China also called for the promotion of the sustainable development of the seabed, which cannot be achieved without progress of science, orderly use of resources, sharing of benefits, collaboration and solidarity.

Monaco

  • Stated that “these resources can be exhausted, even if technology can allow for their extraction it could lead to risks.”

Canada

  • Stated that they are seeking the conclusion of a BBNJ treaty in 2022 and are committed to the development of robust regulations of mineral resources that ensures effective protection of marine environment and sound governance.

Russia

  • The Russian delegation stated that “Along with Antarctic, atmosphere and space, the world ocean became a sphere where internationl governance has been imposed. Large reserves of mineral resources – development potential not fully realised. Minerals such as nodules are only found in the oceans. Will lead to meeting demand of whole range of industries and facilitate more friendly sources of energy.”

UK

  • Stated that the health of the ocean has been significantly degraded due to human action including by industries directly regulated by UNCLOS.

Italy

  • The delegation stated that the supply of raw materials, energy, prospects for economic growth largely depends on the sea.
  • Italy stated that they are strongly committed to the sustainable use of maritime resources and creation of regulation system for exploitation of resources of Area, an ecosystem-based approach and the precautionary principle.

Burkina Faso

  • Called to make sure framework at service of protection of common heritage of humankind for future generations.

Togo

  • Togo stated the need to establish legal order to facilitate activities linked to the sea, conservation of marine resources and protection of the environment.

The Dominican Republic

  •  Highlighted the need to consider the common heritage of humankind while guaranteeing equitable distribution of benefits based on needs of countries.

Portugal

  • The delegation stated that future generations’ wellbeing is linked to wellbeing of oceans.

27 Jul 2022

Spain

  • Remarked on the “organization of this meeting, not being in the conference headquarters, and we think every delegations should be able to speak in the language of the United Nations… we are okay with moving forward with English but at the same time, we’re not saying this is the appropriate way of conducting negotiations with the authority because we are forfeiting our rights. We are not native English speakers, so we are in this disadvantage in this negotiation.” The working group facilitator replied that “We absolutely agree with you. We would have expected for all the audio equipment to have been checked before the meeting starts and thrilled to be working… We don’t like it either”.
  • Spain also commented that “when possible, we need to avoid over regulation given that as such, the legal framework is very complex.” The DSCC urged caution with streamlining “if that means principles are to be removed…. Environmental protection, transparency, including access to information, public participation and review procedures, common heritage of humankind, an ecosystem approach, the precautionary principle, polluter pays, accountability, a prohibition on loss of biodiversity, and best available scientific information are all relevant.”

Mexico

  • Called for references to relevant applicable international agreements be deleted. On this issue, the DSCC stated that “We very much regret losing a reference to relevant applicable international agreements- the current proposal would only be referencing ISA documents in isolation to the important body of international law including the BBNJ agreement for example.”
  • The delegation also called for streamlining of text.

Belgium

  •  Stated that they “hope we can finalise some regulations today.”
  • Commented that the longer we wait to go into work on text paragraph by paragraph, the later we will ever come to the finalisation of the negotiations.
  • Called for simplification of text.

United Kingdom

  • The delegation stated that they are keen “not to hold up progress”
  • The UK also questioned referencing other rules of international law.

Norway

  • Queried references to other rules of international law.
  • Stated that there is merit in simplifying the text

Argentina

  • Stated that they had doubts on references to international law, which could “gives rise to legal uncertainties.”
  • The delegation called for references to be made to the precautionary approach rather than principle in regulations.

Ghana (on behalf of the African Group)

  • The delegation urged caution in referring to international treaties and frameworks. They stated that “the BBNJ is still under construction and so if that is what is envisaged, then we really do not know the extent to which it interacts with the rules that we are developing now, and so, we will be cautious around that.”
  • Supported efforts to streamline text.
  • The delegation stated that Article 150 is paramount to take into the interests of developing states, which is fundamental when talking about the common heritage of humankind.

Canada

  • Cautioned the broad reference to rules of international law and that regulations should not refer to all rules of international law.
  • Supported simplification of the text.
  • Commented that “The Authority shall develop, implement, and promote procedures to ensure effective and transparent communications and public participation.” The DSCC stated that under Article 145 of UNCLOS there is a need to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment, not just the promotion of its protection.

Netherlands

  • Stated that they do not wish to have such a broad reference to other rules of international law.

Federated States of Micronesia

  • Stated that “regulations are subject to the provisions of the convention and the agreement and other rules of international law not incompatible with the convention. So, members have already accepted that sort of formulation in the exploration regulations. So perhaps this can be considered going forward in this context.”
  • Supported specific reference to coastal states who are most relevant in the context of the relevant activities in the Area, particularly those who have close proximity to the mine sites.

Korea

  • Shared concerns regarding other rules of international law and that rules and regulations should not create an internal obligation to comply with other rules we do not know.

Chile

  • Called for identification and inclusion of principles and approaches that are not covered in UNCLOS such as transparency and public participation.

France

  •  Stated confusion on what transparent communication should be and how this obligation would reside with the sponsoring state and not the ISA and that they struggled to see the added value of including sponsoring state in this process.

Singapore

  • Called for clarity on to what is being envisioned in concrete terms on transparent communication for sponsoring states.

Tonga

  • Stated that they were not in favour of including the word “relevant” or “adjacent” commenting It is not clear how these would be determined stating that “Article 142 of UNCLOS provides rights for coastal states across whose jurisdiction resource deposits lie. Tonga does not consider that the Authority is required to consult prior to developing measures to implement the regulations. The powers of the ISA to create adopt rules, regulations and procedures are outlined in the convention. It would be inappropriate to restrict powers by way of regulations.”
  • The DSCC commented that scientific research has shown that sediment from the discharge plume can travel over 1,400 km, so using the word adjacent may not cover all affected States and therefore potentially affected states may therefore not be adjacent.
  • Earthworks stated that they did not know why the regulations would not include relevant coastal states broadly due to impacts on the wider pacific, impacts on migratory populations of tunas and turtles could be affected by mining activities in the CCZ.
26 Jul 2022

Ghana (on behalf of the African Group)

  • Called for developing States have a fair chance to participate in the activities in the area, stating concerns that “that elements and mechanisms designed to give meaning to the principle of the common heritage of humankind risk being eroded”
  • The African Group also stated concerns that the number of reserved areas available to the Enterprise would decline.

Brazil

  • Raised concerns raised about contractors that were unable to comply with obligations and that these issues must be followed closely by ISA to allow for more transparency. They stated that it wasn’t too much to expect that names of contractors, by the same way that States are part of a list when in arrears – giving the Council opportunity to know which contractors not up to challenges.

Chile

  • Noted with concern that there is not full fulfilment of contract-based obligations by some contractors on individual based obligations and that some are obtaining an advantage over others. This situation should be remedied ASAP.
  • The delegation called to be informed of the names of these contractors.
  • Chile said that some contractors have not certified financial statements or inadequate statements. If there are difficulties in fulfilling these activities, the delegation asked if we are ready to engage in much more complicated financial and technical work with regards to exploitation.
  • On NORI, a subsidiary of The Metals Company, Chile stated that “this company has expressed interest starting exploitation activity. However, it’s not in a position to fulfil requirements in the area of environmental impacts as established by this body for the exploration phase. So we must wonder, if NORI cannot fulfil obligations in this exploration phase, can we be sure that they will during the exploitation phase?”

Italy

  • Stated that the Council is not informed on the identity of contractors that are not fully compliant with their obligations and “Italy believes that Council should be duly informed about entities not performing at the same satisfactory level as others. This is relevant when there is delay in collecting sufficient environmental baseline data and temporal variability of relevant environmental practices, which is crucial for definition of threshold, which feeds into environmental regulations. This should be carefully taken into account during the exploration phase, when exploration activity should be thoroughly assessed.
  • They also warned that some contractors are relying on the work undertaken by other contracted areas. This is not acceptable. One of the missions of exploration licences under the Common Heritage of Humankind is to generate knowledge for the whole international community.
  • “Regarding the application for approval of a plan award for exploration by Circular Metals Tuvalu Ltd, Italy observes with concern the unfolding of the events after Tuvalu withdrew its sponsorship. The request by CMT to postpone the analysis of its plan of work until CMT changes its nationality. Sponsorship is a wake up call for all of us to reflect and possibly agree on a definition of effective control, including in the exploitation context.

Germany

  • Stated that “e note with concerned that the environmental management and monitoring plan submitted by the contractor NORI is still insufficient, despite plans to carry out a mining test during the next weeks or months.”
  • “In general we find the entire process of NORIs EIS submission in three pieces in order to meet the one year deadline to be deficient. The first early and premature draft submitted in July 2021 only contain a rudimentary site specific environmental baseline data. The following report submitted on March 2022, was the missing environmental data then lacked the EMP, which was not submitted until two months later. In order to bring the process to a positive conclusion. We expect NORI to provide sufficient and thorough answers to the Commission’s questions on the EMMP before the test mining could be included in the plan of work.“

Costa Rica

  • Called for more time to review important documents and be notified of their publication.
  • Costa Rica stated that they had the same concern as Italy – noting that potential to change nationality and sponsorship was a surprise – is there effective control if that is easy to change?
  • The delegation also questioned the timing of the two year rule, commenting that “In many parts of report, there are mention of obligations not fulfilled due to limitations caused by COVID – but what Costa Rica do not understand is why the pandemic wasn’t taken into account in activating a 2-year deadline, since the request arrived during the worst of pandemic. They called for this to be taken into account now as we consider whether deadline needs to be fulfilled and whether the rule has truly been activated. 
  • The delegation stated that they would like more information especially on the question on who the contractors are that are not complying

Norway

  • Agreed with Costa Rica on effective control and the transfer of rights.

Jamaica

  • The delegation highlighted that some contractors seem to be relying on work in other contract areas which is not consistent with individual obligations in contract Areas and should be kept under careful review.
  • They also stated that it remains unacceptable that some contractors do not feel it necessary to respond to the Legal and Technical Commission and cannot understand why it would have difficulty, such as more details on programme of activities to understand how developing its baselines. They stated that this lack of response in any area requires further action and should be brought to attention of sponsoring states and kept under review by Council.

Argentina

  • Agreed with Italy, Costa Rica and others regarding Tuvalu’s rescission, underscoring the concept of effective control.

Spain

  • Concerned that some contractors did not undertake environmental studies in last year, in spite of the fact that ecosystem studies are improving – this continues to be a point to be monitored. Contractors should rigorously fulfil obligations on enviro matters. Spain added that supervisory and control functions are upmost importance in environmental matters and the highest level of fulfilment is needed in their regard.

Federated States of Micronesia

  • FSM stated that the LTC referenced existing language on sites or objects of archeological or historical nature in exploration regulations, which the Commission might have thought were sufficient. The delegation stated such references were not sufficient when considering REMPs in general, especially considering experiences in the Northwest Pacific, where such cultural heritage and traditional knowledge are alive and vibrant and not archeological, historical, or otherwise outdated – there are proposals in draft exploitation regs to reflect these issues more broadly.

Belgium

  • Called more transparency for names of contractors in default, calling for the Authority to act more vigorously in giving teeth to its rules.
  • The delegation added that when there is a serious breach the Council is notified – who decides what is a serious breach? Is that somewhere in the rules for the LTC?

New Zealand

  • Echoed concern expressed about some contractors not complying fully and wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate need for full and effective compliance.

Nauru

  • Stated that they did not appreciate NGO attempts to dictate to a member State stating that it is untenable based on the participation of NGOs and that no member State has made such a statement. They added that civil society does not share the State responsibilities and there has to be some respect of State’s treaty obligations. The delegation claimed that this behaviour would not be tolerated in the GA and should not be encouraged at the International Seabed Authority.
25 Jul 2022

New Zealand

  • The delegation stated: ” New Zealand shares the concerns that others have expressed about the prospect of deep-sea mining occurring before we have appropriate safeguards in place. This includes robust regulations that ensure the effective protection of the marine environment and sufficient scientific knowledge of the deep ocean, which would allow for robust assessment of the environmental effects of this activity.”
  • “It is New Zealand’s view that mining cannot and should not take place in the absence of these safeguards. New Zealand agrees with those who have expressed the view that paragraph 15 of Section One of the annex to the 1994 agreement does not require the council to adopt exploitation regulations at the end of the two year period. Nor does that require the council to automatically approve a plan of work at that time. Rather, this provision requires the council to make best endeavours to complete regulations within the prescribed timeframe. If that work remains unfinished at the end of the two year deadline, the council was not required to adopt regulations that remain incomplete.”
  • “In saying this, New Zealand will continue to work in good faith in the development of regulations with a strong view to ensuring that any regulations adopted above all ensure the effective protection of the marine environment.”
  • The delegation stated that “Test mining itself is likely to result in harm to the environment. In fact, to understand potential effects, it’s almost necessary that it will result in some harm.”
  • The delegation called for the word “serious” to be deleted from regulations, commenting that serious harm is too high a threshold.
  • New Zealand suggested a proactive approach to prevent unplanned events and that regulations currently only require monitoring and mitigation if harm or serious harm has already occurred, which may be too late.

Mexico

  • Mexico stated that “…Participation by an independent experts should not mean the responsibility is transferred from the contractor. It must be accountable for implementation and any insufficiencies in terms of that implementation. Mexico is not in favour of the plans being of the responsibility of the authority or third party. This is in line with the results based approach under which this draft regulation comes in, which is supported by delegation. In the same vein, my delegation stresses the importance of ramps before expedition activities understand that the planning activities cannot be started unless there’s a ramp in place in the area.”

Chile

  • In line with interventions from France, Chile stated that “All this information must be transparent, published in a legible manner. We’ve had conversations with scientific experts present at ISA meetings, and many of them are not able to read the Deep Data information. I thought it was just me because I’m a bureaucrat… but the scientists themselves can’t either, so something is happening there. We are not fulfilling the responsibility under UNCLOS to publish in a transparent and understandable way the information we are compiling to the scientific community. The information is collected and provided, but we are falling down somewhere. We must fulfil our responsibilities under UNCLOS in this regard and provide the information that is required.”
  • The delegation called to include marine litter and underwater noise in regulations.
  • Chile called to delete the word ‘serious’ from regulations.

Costa Rica

  • The delegation called for “evaluation by independent experts” and called for evaluation to “cover the whole life cycle of contract.”
  • Costa Rica warned that recent studies have shown that underwater noise as a result of deep-sea mining problem is larger than we previously thought.
  • The delegation supported only using the word harm in regulations in line with Art. 145 to prevent “harmful effects” on the marine environment.
  • Costa Rica called for independent auditors to be used.
  • Costa Rica stated that the issue of effective control is vital.

Trinidad and Tobago

  • Called for consideration to be “given to ecological characteristics and recovery time when considering time for independent monitoring.”
  • The delegation supported others in removing the word ‘serious’ from regulations.

United States

  • The delegation called for independent monitoring in addition to monitoring undertaken by contractors and that “the monitoring conducted by the contractor is to occur for the entire duration of the exploitation phase of the mining operation.”

Canada

  • The Canadian delegation raised concerns that test-mining “should not be used as a form of disguised exploitation.”

France

  • The French delegation stated that test mining should be conducted in an area that reflects the zone of future exploitation.
  • The delegation called for regulations to include marine litter and noise, hazards that are now better documented.
  • France called for more clarity on how independent auditors will be chosen by the ISA.

United Kingdom

  • The UK delegation called for test mining to be regulated and have an EIA
  • The delegation also commented that if you go test mining and it doesn’t show harmful effects, then you have effectively checked a box, but the effects of any test mining need to be fed into the larger process (EIAs and EIS) to ensure no harm is done.

Italy

  • Italy called for test mining to be subjected to “robust environmental impact assessment procedures, similar to those envisaged in the exploitation regulations.”
  • The delegation requested to keep marine litter and underwater noise in regulations as these are emerging threats to the underwater environment.

Argentina

  • Called for reference to chemical pollution

Spain

  • Spain requested that noise and litter be included in regulations, which were “particularly important for the fishing sector.”
  • Called for Auditors to be independent so that assessment is rigorous and useful.

Monaco

  • The delegation called to maintain references to noise & marine litter which could be generated by mining activities.

Federated States of Micronesia

  • The delegation proposed “inserting a reference to the coastline in this draft regulation, because in article 145, which talks about the prevention, reduction, and control of pollution and other hazards associated with activities in the area, it does reference the coastline in connection with the marine environment.”
  • FSM supported other delegations who called for removal of “serious” before harm. They asked delegations to consider the use of “serious harm” in other parts in draft regualtions.

Ghana (on behalf of African Group)

  • The delegation called for the deletion of “serious” so that regulations encompass all harmful effects.

Australia

  • Australia supported New Zealand’s proposal to delete ‘serious’ before the word ‘harm’ in regulations.

Russia

  •  Asked who would pay for damage to the marine environment if a contractor doesn’t have any funds to cover the damage.
21 Jul 2022

Chile

  • The Chilean delegation requested to return to France’s statement yesterday.
  • The delegation referenced a statement by DOSI stating that “we don’t know how much we don’t know about the deep sea.” They added that “scientific knowledge is currently insufficient and our understanding of DSM activities on the deep sea is limited in particular on carbon sequestration.”
  • They stated that “Chile is in agreement with a process for negotiation of regulations that are robust, holistic and respect the seabed, but can’t agree with the task being undertaken in a way as to prioritise a contractor starting work running counter to interests of humanity.”
  • Chile commented that “As can be observed during this meeting, we are far from reaching a consensus on regulations.”
  • The delegation also highlighted the need for greater transparency across negotiations, stating that “I insist respectfully for this Council to apply the best standards of transparency. We believe it’s necessary to have a space for at least 2 reps of civil society to participate in the meeting in this room. At IGC4 BBNJ, the Secretary General of UN underscored the need for participation of NGOs. That’s why during the second week, space was given to those participants to join in the room.”
  • They also highlighted short window for review of key documents on financial matters

Ghana

  • Took note of “increasing financial burden brought onto participants especially from developing countries to participate in ISA sessions particularly under this roadmap.”
  • They also stated that they were “also challenged by time constraints regarding distribution of reports and would have preferred more time.”

Germany

  • On budgetary matters highlighted “short period between receiving report and today, so have to reserve our position.
  • Stated that “a clear and effective and enforceable regulatory regime for DSM is imperative and need to include binding with measurable thresholds” and that “so far developed environmental standards by the LTC are lacking such thresholds and largely focus on procedural issues in the preparation of plans of work.”
  • The delegation reminded that UNCLOS Article 145 calls for the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects and as such “any plan of work submitted to the authority must comply with this level of protection.” 
  • They added that “UNCLOS provides for emergency orders to prevent serious harm.”
  • Germany stated that “In our paper, we put a particular emphasis on the role of scientific uncertainties which are a key challenge for defining threshold values, in particular for deep sea environments. Both for setting thresholds and for predicting and measuring impacts in advance and in the course of an operation cannot be emphasised enough that robust environmental baseline information Information is essential. We therefore also strongly argued for agreeing a binding standard on baseline data collection with a minimum set of environmental parameters.”
  • They highlighted that “the vast majority of species habitats, and ecological processes are still unknown in the deep sea and state related parameters, such as biodiversity indices, or population level indicators are extremely difficult to measure.  Due to the urgency and to the high level of expertise needed, we suggest establishing an intersessional working mode to one or more specialised working groups led by volunteering state parties.”

Costa Rica

  • On budgetary matters:
    •  The delegation “would have preferred greater commitment better adapted to the current situation e.g. $27,000 for receptions is a superfluous expense. In travel expenses $655,000 “for such a small organisation where not all members have to travel seems to be a huge sum.” They also raised concerns that there had been little time to review reports
    • They also pointed out that an “Audit finance committee had been requested by the UN Council of Auditors instead of Ernst & Young” which was not agreed upon. The delegation highlighted that it is more important to invest budget in UN audits rather than receptions.
    • The delegation commented that there was also no budget allocated for a “study on environmental costs within the financial mechanism”
  • On marine protection and environmental matters:
    • Costa Rica stated that “Sometimes it seems we say something is green or sustainable but the name isn’t a guarantee that it’s the right programme. We need time to do our own due diligence and we don’t have enough time to decide that this is what we want to do with the common heritage of humanity.”
    • The delegation added that “we are all trying to find the best way to bring to life the precautionary principle.”

Trinidad and Tobago

  • The delegation stated that a compliance unit is “Imperative” to “monitor and oversee activities and adherence to rules as we seek to protect Area from harmful effects.”

Japan

  • Recognised that “the ISA is an organisation in transition to an exploitation phase and the Council works towards adoption of regulations for exploitation of mineral resources in the Area” which they “fully support.”

Belgium

  • On financial matters:
    • Belgium echoed other delegations concerns on the late publication of reports 
  • On environmental matters:
    • The delegation stated that “we have called the commencement procedure for an exploitation contract before settling the institutional matters, irresponsible… we equally think it would be irresponsible to commence such a procedure prior to the adoption of normative environmental objectives.”

Spain

  • On financial matters
    • Spain called for more time to assess reports
    • The delegates agreed with recommendations to use UN Court for Auditors as it exists for these purposes and would permit standardisation with other UN Agencies
    • Spain supported Costa Rica on the need to have a study on environmental costs and its relationship to the budget stating that “This was reiterated in March and earlier this week – several delegations have reaffirmed that we need to internalise costs so we need to know what they are.”
  • On environmental matters, the delegation commented that
    • “Firstly, the protection and preservation of the marine environment is a priority for many delegations present here and for my delegation, which has been expressed on various occasions within the organs of the principal organs of the authority, the Assembly and the Council. This is a reflection of the awareness on environmental matters that exists nationally and internationally and we cannot ignore that.We have the obligation to effectively protect the marine environment within the legal framework of the convention and the 1994 agreement.”
    • “Against that backdrop, we support what has been said by France and also the statements made by Chile and other delegations. 
    • That the famous two year clause does not oblige us to move to the exploitation phase if the environmental measures are not adequate. 
    • And if only economic or market based elements are taken care of Spain agrees with our precautionary approach the precautionary principle gives us the opportunity to anticipate negative impacts on the environment and there are consequences such as the loss of biodiversity.
    • They added that “seabed mining should not take place until there is an adequate legal framework that ensures impacts are minimised before contractors undertake exploitation, as we have said on previous occasions, exploitation rules need more legal strength and the strongest possible environmental guarantees.”
    • The delegation also commented that “If polluters are not accountable, the public has to pay the cost, and this is why we have the public interest referenced and justifies this inclusion of public interest in our view.”

United Kingdom

  • Supported “having a threshold to ensure effective protection, not just threshold alone but a wider assessment to ensure protection from harmful effects.”
  • The UK stated that their preference was to include the “precautionary principle.” 
  • The delegation added that they are “working on a proposal to ease public access of information and to improve transparency across the regulations as a whole. All information related to contract areas should be available unless it is confidential.”
  • They also stated that they “agree to add the polluter pay principle.”

Mexico

  • The delegation stated that “Exploitation can’t begin before that regulatory framework is complete” grounded in scientific evidence, responding to the need to “preserve and protect the marine environment and its resources.”
  • They also stressed “the importance of baseline systems and environmental references. These are important to assess the environmental impact of any project.”
  • Mexico stated that “We consider that we should strike out reference that states “immediately above a mine site or minerals derived from mine site”, and instead use “transportation of minerals from site of mining to on-land facilities” … so this is managed holistically with all stakeholders are involved and all precautionary principles is understood in full protection of the environment of the harm of exploitation activities that may be caused as well as the connected activities like transporting nodules or being processed. Processing not necessarily done in mining area, illicit harmful geographic effects, effects harmful effects to marine environment”
  • The delegation stated that they would “prefer to use precautionary principle instead of approach

Brazil

  • The Brazilian delegation commented that a “big discussion is still needed, so the ISA can establish environmental thresholds to balance and can be considered acceptable”. They continued that “As far as separate impacts are concerned like sediment, life noise, etc, several concepts still need to be clarified, like serious harm, rare and unique systems etc.”
  • Delegates also highlighted concerns around effective control 

Netherlands

  • The delegation stated that “thresholds are important in informing our future work.”

Finland

  • Finland considered the paper presented by Germany “ a good starting point for further development of instructions on how to set normative environmental thresholds.” They also stressed the need to apply the precautionary principle when setting these thresholds.

Australia

  • Australia stated that they fully supported the need for strong environmental protection.

Italy

  • The Italian delegation commented that “We are fully aware of the potential impacts on marine ecosystems and the functioning of…the ocean as a climate regulator. In committing to negotiations we support the highest standard of protection.” 

France

  • France considered that “It is extremely difficult to set thresholds due to lack of scientific knowledge and therefore we encourage a continuation of scientific research in order to be able to determine these thresholds as precisely as possible. In order in order to protect the environment as effectively as possible, we might suggest to add an indicator on pressure, for example, that leads to the destruction of habitats”
  • The delegation supported the inclusion of the “precautionary principle.” 

Nauru

  • Nautu commented that environmental thresholds are “very important for the protection of the marine environment. We fully support this work.”
  • The delegation stated that “we seek clarification on wording with “public interest”, what are these implications? This is really important to clarify”

Federated States of Micronesia

  • FSM stated that it is crucial that “work be carried out in a careful, transparent, and responsible manner.”
  • “As we have strived to do so for a while now, Micronesia continues to engage in good faith in the careful, transparent, and responsible development of the Mining Code of the ISA. We do so under two major guiding principles. First, if proposed exploitation activities in the Area are to be considered by the Authority, then this consideration must be in accordance with an internationally-agreed, complete and clear set of regulations, standards, and guidelines that ensure the robust and effective protection and preservation of the marine environment, in line with the Convention and the Part XI Agreement. Second, the consideration of proposed exploitation activities must be based on a comprehensive suite of data, knowledge, and information about the Area and the surrounding marine environment that could be impacted by such proposed exploitation activities, including the relevant traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.”
  • The delegation highlighted that “In our view, we are quite a long way from satisfying both principles, and we may very likely not reach that stage for a long while to come.”
  • “In light of these concerns, Micronesia recently joined the Alliance of Countries for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium, alongside several of our fellow Pacific Island countries. Micronesia recognizes that there are different views about how a moratorium can be implemented in accordance with the Convention and the Part XI Agreement, and we acknowledge that other delegations have called for various iterations of a pause or some other type of precautionary step other than a moratorium. We are happy to discuss these matters with all interested delegations in good faith going forward, while remaining fully mindful of Micronesia’s core concerns about how much work remains in order to complete a robust Mining Code and secure a comprehensive set of data, knowledge, and information about the Area and the potential harmful effects of exploitation activities.”
  • “To conclude, Micronesia’s commitment to international action through the careful, transparent, and responsible development of the Mining Code is motivated not just by my government’s deep care and concern for the marine environment of the Area, but also by our own national efforts to safeguard our own national territory and jurisdiction. Micronesia has committed to effectively managing 100 percent of our maritime territory by 2030, including protecting a minimum of 30 percent of our maritime territory and a minimum of 50 percent of our coastal marine territory by 2030. We cannot achieve these goals unless there is a Mining Code in place that, among other things, allows for rigorous and transparent impact assessments to ensure that the environmental, social, cultural, and economic risks of deep seabed mining are comprehensively understood, including how biodiversity loss and species extinction can be prevented, in line with the precautionary principle, ecosystem approach, and the polluter pays principle, among other factors.”
  • “The Ocean is a unitary whole, and what happens in the international seabed Area could very well impact coastal waters and territories.”
  • FSM stated that they’d prefer to use “precautionary principle rather than approach.”

Norway

  • Norway stated the need for “exploitation regulations with stringent standards while following the precautionary principle”
  • The delegation supported the UK in ensuring that all environmental documents and data are made available.

Indonesia 

  • The delegation stated that “the application of precautionary principle is our preference.” 

Russia

  • Russia stated that “We should provide for protection of the marine environment from possible consequences of processing of extracted minerals, but we think that this would exceed the mandate of this authority. This authority should act in the area, and in the area, we can only do exploration and exploitation”

Portugal 

  • The delegation commented that they see regulations as “focused on outcomes” but they “must be focused on protection of marine environments.”
  • The delegation stated a preference for the “precautionary principle rather than approach.”

New Zealand

  • The delegation stated that their key priority “is that any framework protects the marine environment. We consider all aspects of mining need to be assessed and evaluated – including processing on ships.”

USA

  • The delegation pointed out that on “remediation of harm” in regulations, “full remediation may not be successful, so reducing harm must be emphasised.”  

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.