International Seabed Authority

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.
3 Aug 2022

Trinidad and Tobago

  • The delegation stated that “Speed should not take precedence over quality. Regulations should not be adopted in an attempt to meet a deadline.”

Holy See

  • The Holy See stated that “The words of Pope Francis are pertinent here as well. And I quote, since everything is closely interrelated and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions.”

Chile

  • Chile stated that “for reasons of transparency that auditing should not be monopolised by one firm. Chile requests that the Assembly should make a decision, as recommended by Finance Committee, a UN board of auditors be used. More will have to be paid to do so.  Chile would like to see reduction in expenses to allow more funding to hire UN board of auditors and respond to transparency requirements called for by taxpayers.”
  • The Secretary General stated that “the audit for this year 2022 will be carried out by Ernst & Young, who have already been appointed as the auditor and the contract in place.”
  • Chile stated on their proposal for a discussion on the two year rule that their proposal “is subject to discussion and some countries have objected, such as Tonga and Nauru. Under the rules of procedure we believe a secret vote would go against what we aspire to. Chile would like to evoke article 12 as established practice for issues which are urgent and important. This is an important and urgent item.”
  • On Belgium’s proposal (detailed below), Chile stated that contractor “motives are very different to most of the other observers whose primary objective is to think about common heritage.”

Monaco

  • Stated that capacity development is an obligation, not a choice. “Capacity building and training are extremely important because they are currently insufficiently implemented.
    The realization of the objective of sustainable exploitation of the area will depend on our level of scientific knowledge. Without solid scientific basis, no action is possible in that realm.”
  • They added that “The Principality of Monaco will play its role to the full because capacity development requires adequate implementation of indeed the legal order we’re defining in order to facilitate exploitation that is safe in the area with regard to resources on the ecosystems.”

Senegal

  • Stated “The richness of the area involves an obligation to preserve and protect this common heritage of mankind. Activities undertaken in the area of scientific research in the area, as well as exploration exploitation call for thorough knowledge, with a view to having sustainable development of the deep sea.”
  • They added that “Today in the fisheries sector it’s worth recognizing the existence of fishing techniques that have negative consequences on the deep seabed. On this point we support the implementation of REMPS.”

Belgium

  • Belgium Introduced “proposed amendments to the Rules of Procedure – this rule stipulates who can participate as an observer in the Assembly and the Council of the Assembly”
  • The delegation proposed that “contractors be given the same rights as observers as NGOs and civil society.”
  • Belgium also stated “We encourage the NGOs also to associate themselves to increase the efficiency of the meetings.”

Australia

  • Stated that “this may risk a conflict of interest in ISA processes.”
  • “We recognise that there is currently no industry group representing DSM, but there is no obstacle to one being formed.”

Russia

  • The Russian federation supported Belgium’s proposal on contractors.

Argentina

  • Stated that they had doubts on the Belgian proposal and that in the Authority there is special representation of the States that have carried out the greatest efforts for development of activities in area and therefore their interests are already represented. They also raised questions on the potential conflicts of interest and stated “We are not in favour of including contractors as observers in the interests of the Authority.”

Tonga

  • Stated that they are not supporting Belgium’s proposal but do do see merit in the proposals and would be interested in the proposals from Australia and the Netherlands.

Canada

  • Stated that “maybe we should consider the possibility that the contractor intervenes individually, therefore with an amendment to the rules of procedure.”

Pakistan

  • Stated that “contractors must not be given the right to speak as individuals, given the stakes they hold in the discussion.

Nauru

  • Noted the above proposal and supported it.

Italy

  • Shared concerns about possible conflicts of interest regarding Belgium’s proposal.

UK

  • Stated with regard to the Belgium proposal – “We acknowledge the point made by observers and note that they all have their own policy positions as well in relation to the interventions which they make as well.”
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.

1 Aug 2022

DSCC Media Advisory

For release 1/8/22

This week, deep-sea mining negotiations in Jamaica enter their third week as backlash surrounding the nascent industry grows. Concerns surrounding transparency and the environmental impacts of the industry remained firmly at the top of the agenda for observers and many States present at International Seabed Authority (ISA) meetings last week. Meanwhile, global support for a halt skyrocketed as a new letter calling for a moratorium was launched, with more than 68,000 people calling on leaders to stop the industry before it begins. 

The ISA’s 168-member Assembly begins a week-long meeting today. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition has been present throughout deep-sea mining negotiations in Kingston and continues to advocate for a moratorium on the risky industry.

Continue reading Deep-sea mining negotiations demonstrate that the destructive industry cannot go ahead

29 Jul 2022

Ghana (on behalf of the African Group)

  • Supported the operationalisation of an Economic Planning Committee (EPC) “as soon as possible.”
  • The delegation stated that “As the recent United Nations Oceans conference has highlighted, there is a need to scale up ocean action based on science for the implementation of SDG 14 and the preservation and protection of the marine environment.”
  • Ghana supported the approval of the ISA’s MOU with the African Union and requested member states to support the MOU.

Italy

  • On operationalising an EPC, the delegation stated that “we cannot at this stage forecast revenue from deep-sea mining so this is premature.”

Chile

  • The delegation highlighted the absence of certain experts in the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission, including economic accountants, economists commercial engineers, lawyers, experts in private law and environmental ecologists.

UK

  • The UK stated that “we think that the time has come to take the steps to put the [economic planning] committee in place as the council and the ISA takes forward. It’s important work.”

Canada

  • The delegation stated that the “economic planning commission would contribute a level of expertise that would be complementary to the current work on financial mechanisms of a contract as well as the various mechanisms that will be implemented for the distribution of benefits at the point of exploitation.”

China

  • Stated that discussing “EPC operationalisation now is a little premature.”

Costa Rica

  • Supported the operationalisation of an EPC commenting that it is very important to jump start it so can start developing policies as well as carrying out functions of assessments on price of minerals and supply and demand.

France

  • The delegation stated that it is “a little too soon to create EPC, conditions are not yet there.”

Mexico

  • Supported the operationalisation of the EPC

Jamaica

  • Stated that the EPC should be operationalised before the first plan of work for exploitation is agreed

Argentina

  • The delegation stated that “the time has come to start establishing the EPC.”

Cameroon

  • Supported the operationalisation of the EPC, “given that the mining exploitation of seabeds could begin in the near future.”

Belgium

  • Called for operationalisation of EPC before approval of 1st plan of work for exploitation.

28 Jul 2022

Chile

  • Called for transparency in auditing requesting the Council use the UN auditing system.
  • The delegation expressed their displeasure for the timing of conference centre renovations.
  • They highlighted that relating to program expenses, a report stated that “the council approved a roadmap for the study of the draft regs for exploitation in 2022 which will lead to the finalisation of regs in 2023.” They called for clarification and whether the ISA Secretary General meant to say is that the Council agreed it was necessary to accelerate the work, but that nothing was agreed until everything is agreed.” and they didn’t understand why that line was included.
  • Chile stated that contributions from all members of the authority are of equal value.
  • The delegation stated the importance of considering ecosystem services.

Italy

  • Stated that the ISA is at a critical juncture, so we have a responsibility to make necessary decisions.

Cook Islands

  • Acknowledged the lack or presence of other PSID sponsoring State and note that all perspectives should be presented, asking that that their request be taken into consideration.

Brazil

  • The delegation stated that the promotion of marine research in the Area, is one of the ISA’s main priorities and without this knowledge we do not have a clear idea of the consequences of the mining code and exploitation. Without a clear idea of consequences we cannot make the proper decisions.
  • The delegation also called to increase literacy of ISA members, especially developing countries stating that we need to understand more and need more scholars, more stakeholders, more experts, more exchange of knowledge and ideas. They stated that increasing public knowledge and general deep sea literacy is key. The delegation stated that “We have to make an effort to make this more clear for the whole society to be informed about what we are doing, what are the consequences, what are the limits, the difficulties & challenges”

Costa Rica

  • Costa Rica agreed with other delegates on the importance of seeing the Authority manifest austerity. It is not the right time to support the creation of new, non essential positions.
  • The delegation also reiterated that we have seen several important proposals on the protection of the marine environment, but there is no study on the environmental costs for mining. They stated that this was something agreed upon in March and requested that this be added to the budget, replacing non essential expenditure.
  • The delegation called for the Council to work from documents that the included all comments and not only those of the members of council dating from 2019.
  • Costa Rica responded to the LTC Chair who told the Council that the LTC do not identify contractors not fulfilling obligations, stating that ultimately Council has responsibility for deciding if a contract is extended or not, so think it’s important for the members to know the work of the contractors. Earthworks also called for more transparency and making this information public.
  • Costa Rica stated that the objective of a study on environmental costs of deep-sea mining would be to determine what the value is of what we would be losing. We need to know that there is net benefit to humankind.
  • The delegation called for an inclusive and transparent space wherein scientific experts can work together to define these thresholds.

Ghana (on behalf of the African Group)

  • Stated that the Area and its resources are the Common Heritage of Humankind and exploitation should be carried out for humankind as a whole.
  • The delegation called for any study of environmental costs of deep-sea mining to include valuation of deep sea and services as well as natural capital and cover direct and indirect impacts on seafloor, subsoil and water column, using a low discount rate used for present and future generation. They added that a Separate study to incentivise contractors to exceed legal obligations for marine environmental protection could enhance protection, but goes against polluter pays, which discourages subsidies for environmental protection, and instead requires full internalization.

France

  • Commented “Forgive me but I am lost, which of the documents we are referring to? and later “I don’t understand why we aren’t using the most recent document with all the comments” amid confusion regarding which documents Council were working from.

Belgium

  • The delegation expressed frustration with the process, stating that “it is unfortunate that we are not working with the most recent text available.” The DSCC also expressed disappointment that the full compilation document, reflecting the contributions of all stakeholders, appears to be sidelined suggesting that the massive confusion that has resulted is a direct result of this.

Singapore

  • Pushed back on OceanCare’s call for the ISA to demonstrate that they take women’s inclusion seriously and changing references to ‘mankind’ to ‘humankind’, stating if there are terms used in the convention these should be maintained in the regulations and not be changed
  • The delegation called for an environmental cost study of the impacts of deep-sea mining to include opportunity costs. They also stated that other forms of non-monetary benefits generate value and should be considered.

India

  • Stated that contractors are not only polluters but innovators

Germany

  • Commented that contractors are required to adhere to best environmental practices, but it will be based on the technical abilities of the contractor at the moment of approval. Incentives are to keep improving their technical abilities even after their contract is approved. They stated that contractors who go beyond what is technically required by the contract and should be able to market their goods in a form that is less costly

Trinidad & Tobago

  • Stated that as the area is the common heritage of humankind, every effort should to be taken to ensure best practices are adopted.

Mexico

  • Supported mandatory environmental thresholds and stated that they must be adopted before any exploitation activity.

Argentina

  • The delegation stated that “The establishment of environmental normative thresholds is important for protecting the marine environment as per article 145 of UNCLOS.”

Netherlands

  •  Supported the development of “normative thresholds to effectively protect the marine environment and see it as a priority in development of mining code.”

Nauru

  • Called for contractors should be explicitly mentioned alongside observers and members.