- On the ISA’s award for deep sea research, Costa Rica highlighted that the ISA should recognise young people but to also listen to them, remain in contact with them, to take very seriously their contributions and heed closely with what they are telling us. The delegation highlighted Dr Diva Amon who “continues to contribute in note worthy manor.”
- Called for the achievement of UN standards in transparency and accountability by the ISA and that it would also be appropriate for the Authority to to adopt and implement the Standards of Conduct for International Civil Service, as done by all United Nations organizations.
- On financial matters, they highlighted that the Voluntary Fund for Extra-budgetary Support for the Authority was not mentioned in the report, which received almost two million dollars, with a balance now of about 700,000. “We do not know the governance scheme of this fund, nor where the expenses it covers are reported, but it seems to us that for the sake of transparency information should be published on all the funds that the ISA receives.”
- They also highlighted worrying comments by the Secretary General stating: Costa Rica would like to mention that when the Secretary General participates in events on behalf of the Authority, the audiences presume that his statements represent the opinion of the States Parties to the ISA. That is why we have been very concerned about two situations that have occurred in the last year.
- The first situation occurred in June 2022, when in the framework of the Meeting of States Parties of UNCLOS, the Secretary-General communicated to the UN General Assembly: “the endorsement by consensus of a roadmap for accelerated work on the draft exploitation regulations with a view to adopt the regulations by July 2023”. This assertion is, to say the least, inaccurate.
- The other event that worries my delegation is in a video on YouTube about an activity of the University of Singapore, where Secretary Lodge appears in it and criticised the current negotiators, saying that there are, and I quote “extreme ideological positions, including a growing environmental absolutism and dogmatism, bordering on fanaticism”. We do not know who the SG was referring to in this video, but we find his statements extremely inappropriate, even more so when, one of the obligations of the Authority, for many the main obligation, is to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment, so all ISA officials should celebrate and support the efforts and demonstrations that serve to fulfil this mandate.
- The delegation also highlighted that it was not indicated in the Secretary General’s report that Tuvalu withdrew sponsorship from this company, since Tuvalu notified this to the Secretariat in April, and the date of the report is the end of May.
- They also added that “almost all the delegations that have taken the floor speak about the importance of complying with the effective protection and preservation of the marine environment in accordance with Article 145 of UNCLOS. But the only way to comply with protection and preservation obligations is by not starting exploitation until there is enough scientific evidence to be able to make informed decisions when evaluating a plan of work.”
- “Some will say that all mining poses risks to the environment. That is true. But seabed mining in the Area is something very different: it is the only resource we govern as an international community snd it is the only resource in human history that we have the opportunity to regulate before we begin exploiting it. That is why we have the enormous responsibility to do good and get it right, taking all the necessary time before exploiting it.”
- “That is why Costa Rica believes that because we are responsible for the Common Heritage of Humankind, for our peoples and for future generations, we must act with caution.That caution requires us to implement a precautionary delay with regard to starting exploitation activities.”
- “Article 15 does not mean that our only option is to approve a plan. The same rules provides for the possibility for a decision not being taken. There are several legal options that we should be able to discuss among all States and Observers. That is the idea behind Chile’s proposal, which reiterates a request from 9 Latin American and Caribbean countries in November 2021 to have a space for discussion.”
- “We cannot ignore that we are far from completing the Regulations and the Standards and Guidelines, also we have pending the operationalization of the Enterprise and the Economic Planning Commission. Neither are we close to reaching an agreement on the financial mechanism, where we have not agreed on the model, nor the royalties, nor do we have the study on environmental costs that was agreed to be carried out by consensus.”
- “As representatives of our countries and of humanity, we have an immense responsibility that fate has placed in our hands. My delegation will continue to work constructively with all delegations to advance our work in the right direction. But that direction should not be decided on the basis of the economic interests of a few. We must be guided by the principle of the Common Heritage of Humankind and the precautionary principle. Our efforts today to conserve the marine environment will determine the world in which future generations will live.”
- The delegations stated that Jamaica benefits in real ways from ISA and Secretary General as a host country.
- The delegation highlighted that Africa is highly underrepresented in this Secretariat in senior leadership positions and called for this imbalance to be addressed.
- Stated that the ISA is meaningfully contributing to SDGs. This claim was made by numerous State delegations throughout the day including Malta, Philippines, Bangladesh, Morocco, Nauru, Italy, India, Algeria, Senegal Argentina and Kiribati.
- The DSCC stated that this is wholly not the case, and amounted to spin. Deep-sea mining is entirely inconsistent with SDG 14, which requires that States conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
- Stated that the biggest challenge for ISA is balancing the conflicting obligations, which are the exploitation activities of mineral resources in a sustainable manner, and effective protection of marine environment from harmful effects, which may arise from such activities.
- South Africa also stated that the precautionary and polluter pays principle must also be taken into consideration.
- They also raised concerns as to how fair and equitable benefit sharing will be realized, calling for a payment regime that balances commercial interests with a fair and equitable return to the common heritage of humankind.
- South Africa stated that without the Enterprise, the area’s mineral resources could be effectively reserved for those private corporations to the effective exclusion of the developing countries.
- Japan commented that the “deep sea is extremely fragile, and once destroyed, it takes a long time to recover and the protection of the marine environmental area of utmost importance.” They continued that it is essential to develop robust, high quality rules that contribute to both the “sound exploitation and the protection of the marine environment.”
- The delegation added that “In so doing, we must seek the consensus of all parties concerned and make every effort to otherwise substantive discussions. This is easy to say that difficult to do.”
- Called to “protect the contractual rights and exploitation motivations of contractors while effectively protecting the marine environment.”
- The delegation stated that the annual report of the Secretary General “comes at a time of great change at a geopolitical social and economic level, where the attention given to the ocean as a reservoir of biological and mineral resources has no comparison to the battle that is waged on the cost of the exploitation, both from the economic, and environmental point of view, and the more or less imminent nature of this exploitation.”
- They added “What is occurring now, pertaining to the resources of the area is just a race in which each decision matters, this race, whose outcome is, I’m sure, will probably decide on the future of our planet. But this race, we still have ways to win it for the benefit of the area thanks to the scientific community whose work allows us to measure the progress of the degradation by mining, as well as the resilient capacity of oceans.”
- Called to to “base our actions including the ISA’s work upon what science tells us is the best is in the best interests of our planet and humanity as a whole” and that “public information and outreach are vital in all our work.”
- Urged the Secretariat to continue to find ways to strengthen the voting and governance.
The New Zealand delegation made the following statement:
- “Deep-sea mining has the potential to cause irreversible changes to this environment and could have a significant impact on the biodiversity within it. As such it is essential that any mining code adopted above all ensures the effective protection of the marine environment.”
- “This is required under Article 145 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and must be our collective bottom line in these negotiations. As outlined in the council last week, New Zealand’s view is that mining cannot and should not take place in the absence of strong environmental safeguards. This must include robust and comprehensive regulations that embed the precautionary approach such that mining cannot take place, unless there is effective protection of the marine environment.”
- “New Zealand jointly with Costa Rica, Chile, the Netherlands, the UK and the Federated States of Micronesia put forward a proposal in March which is designed to encode article 145 of UNCLOS into the draft regulations. The proposal aims to fill a gap in the Commission’s decision making process by introducing a new stage requiring the commission to make a substantive determination on whether an application to mine gives rise to a risk of harm to the marine environment. We consider that such a decision making stage is vital to ensure compliance with article 145 and we were pleased to see this proposal included in the various drafts of the regulations released by the facilitators of the working groups this week.”
- “Finally, we would like to touch briefly on the two year rule, and what this means looking forward in negotiations. New Zealand agrees with those that 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 it 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 two year deadline, if the regulations do not ensure the effective protection of the marine environment we consider the council is not required to adopt them. It is New Zealand’s view that in these circumstances, mining beyond national jurisdiction should not proceed.”
- “We would also like to briefly add our support for the proposal made by Chile during yesterday’s session regarding the addition of an agenda item under which discussion on the two year rule could take place in the Assembly. We consider this discussion to be an important one and one that should be open to all ISA members.”
The delegation stated that:
- “Protecting and preserving the marine environment is a priority for many delegations and reflects the environmental awareness that exists on national and international levels that we cannot ignore.”
- “Secondly, at the UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon, many delegations recall that there was a lack of scientific certainty with regard to the environmental impact of deep sea mining, and that there is a need to protect biodiversity, beyond national jurisdiction. Therefore, we believe that as a precaution, The time has come to take a break. This break will serve to slow down the transition to the phase of exploiting mineral resources in the area without diminishing exploration activities, which should continue. As we have said on many occasions, the goal of exploring should be to gain knowledge and protect in a better way.”
- “We believe that pursuant to Article 145 of the convention, the two year rule does not oblige us to move to the exploitation phase. If environmental guarantees are not adequate, and not while addressing only economic or market based factors.”
- “The existence of a protective and appropriate regulatory framework that ensures true protection prior to any authorization of exploitation contracts is for Spain a fundamental course of action that we will always ask to be respected.”
- The delegation also stated that “The interaction between the BBNJ process and the exploitation regulations is clear.”
- The Russian delegation stated that “we have made progress on many points of contention over the past year, but there is a lot that needs to be done. The drafting and approval of a document as fundamental to the activities as the regulations on exploitation require a very careful and responsible approach, avoiding taking hasty, not fully thought through decisions. Careful consideration should be given to all issues particularly those relating to the protection of the marine environment, including the assessment of possible impact and the setting of threshold values.”
- Bangladesh stated that “Draft regulations and standards progressing but need to move forward.”
- The delegation stated that “States have obligation to protect and preserve marine environment including in Area, control pollution, not only in national jurisdiction, and also pollution from land-based sources.”
- France stated that “After the Lisbon conference which launched a warning call with regard to the health of oceans, France is determined to act and adopt a legal framework with rigorous environmental protections to ensure that harm to ecosystems in the marine environment is minimised.”
- On the two year rule, they stated that “In this regard, France stresses that it has never interpreted the triggering of the two year rule in June 2021 to mean an adaptation of the mining code by 2023 as being an obligation on the council to automatically and provisionally agree all work plans that will be submitted beyond that date. France’s priority is to take the time necessary to define this multilateral legal framework, which should be robust and should offer protection. It should be enforceable for all states.”
- They added that “There is a particular responsibility on our shoulders. We know now that the destiny of humanity linked to oceans, to the sustainable development of their resources and absolute requirement of respect for the marine environment. Let’s be up to the task that has been given to us.”
- The delegation stated that “This year we’re commemorating UNCLOS’ 40th anniversary however our planet has never before confronted so many challenges. The global climate crisis that has come to bear in recent years through episodes of, intense and recurrent droughts, soil degradation, devastating floods, ocean acidification and rising sea levels reminds of the need to exercise close control of activities at sea in general; but on the high seas in particular. Since the health of our planet is inexplicably linked to health of our oceans, this control is so more necessary than ever.”
- Stated “Let us continue to work collectively constructively to finalize a world class ISA mining code. We have a window of opportunity to support the development of a sector that we consider has the real potential to help accelerate our energy transition to realize financial and other economic benefits for the international community as a whole flowing from the principle of the common heritage of mankind, to contribute to a sustainable development agenda and a sector that is subject to a unique robust oversight mechanism through ISA and sponsoring states.”
- Reiterated “the importance for the authority to continue broadcasting live on the ISA Web TV, the meetings of the assembly and the council, including the informal working groups of the Council on the various elements of the exploitation regulations.”
- They also agreed with States and observers that mentioned that paragraph 15 of annex to the 1994 Agreement doesn’t require Council to adopt regulations if Council deems they aren’t yet fit for purpose. In absence of such regulations, we believe exploitation activities shouldn’t commence and that the rules don’t require Council to automatically approve plan of work.
- Reminded delegates of an earlier letter, dated October 13 of last year, ISBA/26/47 where together with the delegations of Argentina, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago, Chile stated that it was important to finish developing an effective regulatory framework framework before the exploitation activities begin in order to guarantee that UNCLOS and the agreement would be taken into account.
- They stated that “It is hard for us to believe that those who negotiated that agreement, did it believing that one day it would be interpreted in the manner in which certain contractors want to interpret it. That is to say, please the interests of a few above the interests of all of mankind.”
- They added that “I hope that in November, the convention centre will be available since the treatment given to the rest of our delegations and the observers who did not fit in this room and who travelled from far afield was not the best.”
- Chile also stated that “We are very far from having a serious responsible and regulation based on the consensus which is the only regulation that our countries deserve as well as the future generations that we all accountable to, which is why we cannot continue our work under pressure. Exploiting seabeds without adequate regulations will be feast today and famine in the future.”
- Stated that “We recall original deadline of exploitation regulations was 2020, but that has been extended. Welcome the progress that has been made. We are grateful for those taking the work forward. We Believe it’s essential that the authority makes use of the year ahead and potentially up to six weeks of meetings with the Council to take forward the important work on the elaboration of a commercially viable code, which has the strongest levels of environmental protection within it with the precautionary principle at its heart.”
- The delegation said “To proceed to the exploitation of mineral resources in the area, increasingly subject to a sparkling debate in the global public opinion, the Authority is called to a growing effort of transparency and involvement of civil society.”
- Italy stated “We should aim for the creation of an institutional and regulatory system based on sound scientific knowledge on the precautionary principle and on the ecosystem based approach. Again, we underline that deep sea mining should not commence until an adequate regulatory framework ensures the minimization of impacts of the exploitation prior to the authorization of exploitation contracts.”
- They also highlighted that there will be “Period of intense work in upcoming sessions, and we believe that conclusion of these negotiations should not hinder quality of regulation, particularly the need for highest levels of protection for the marine environment. We support the principle that the quality of regulations should not be weakened because of imposed deadlines.”
- Cuba stated “This is a moment of transition in our work from exploration to exploitation and we hope to make progress in this process as we develop the exploitation rules, maintaining an approach based on transparency, cooperation, cautionary and proportionate that allows to balance the exploitation of real resources and the protection of the environment and particularly the marine environment. We should not hurry in the negotiation process and take into account the environmental studies that allow us to understand the consequences and the impacts of the exploitation of resources in the area.”
- Called upon the finance committee to ensure they work continuously to implement rules and agreement relating to benefit to humankind as a whole, paying special attention to benefit and needs of all peoples.
- Tonga stated that they “stand ready to support work of Authority and relevant bodies especially for completion of regulatory frameworks in timely fashion while assuring due diligence where appropriate.”
- Supported the initiative of Chile and “shared the concerns of Argentina concerning the deadline established in terms of the annex of the agreement on the implementation of the level of intervention which presents a problem in the activities in the area to be considered in elements linked to the activation of this deadline.”
- Stated that “It’s clear that more scientific knowledge and more expertise are required to address a significant amount of questions and issues related to the impact of the seabed mining on the marine ecosystem ecosystems.”
- They called for member States’ concerns about issues that demand solid scientific knowledge or complex legal answers to be properly addressed.
- They also called for the two year rule role to be addressed by the LTC independently of the views of members.
- The delegation also called for a scientific committee.
- Mexico stated that “scientific data is fundamental to have enough information to move on to exploit exploitation.”
- They added that “We wish to have a scientific legal framework which gives certainty to exploitation activities while protecting the marine environment and allowing us to sustainable use these resources.”