Regulation News

ISA Council Opens Part I of Its 28th Session

ISA Council Opens Part I of Its 28th Session
Image credit: International Seabed Authority (ISA)

The Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) opened the meetings of Part I of its 28th session on Thursday, 16 March 2023. The Council will be meeting for 12 days until 31 March 2023. The main item on the agenda of the Council remains the draft regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area (ISBA/25/C/WP.1) prepared by the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) and submitted to the Council in March 2019. Other items on the agenda include the status of contracts for exploration, the report on the work of the LTC at the first part of its 28th session between 7 and 15 March, and matters related to the Enterprise and the operationalization of the Economic Planning Commission.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General of ISA, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, welcomed the delegates to Jamaica and thanked the Jamaican government for its support in ensuring that all conditions were met for the meetings despite ongoing renovation works in the meeting venue.

Secretary-General Lodge also expressed his appreciation to the outgoing President of the 27th session of the Council, Mr. Tomasz Abramowski (Poland), for his dedication to advancing the regulations and other matters during 2022. Mr. Lodge further commended the work of the new LTC as well as the chair and facilitators of the working groups created by the Council to advance the development of the draft exploitation regulations for providing further revised texts since the last meetings of the Council in October-November 2022 for consideration by Members of the Council.

Mr. Lodge highlighted three important global conferences that took place recently and that are relevant for the work of the Council during this session: COP15, which took place in Montreal in December 2022, the LDC5 held in Qatar in March 2023, and most importantly, the agreement in New York last week on the text of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“I would like to congratulate all those who took part in the intergovernmental conference for this achievement. As the third implementation agreement under UNCLOS, the new agreement is an additional step toward the sustainable use of ocean resources. Its conclusion, 40 years after the entry into force of UNCLOS, reaffirms the faith in a multilateral approach to ocean governance, a value which has always been central to the work of the members of ISA,” he said.

“We take great satisfaction in seeing the fundamental role of ISA in the international ocean governance architecture fully recognized in the agreement. The new agreement sets ambitious goals, many of which are also at the core of the mandate of ISA and will help to reinforce our long-standing work on the protection of the marine environment, capacity development and transfer of marine technology. We stand ready to work with all relevant stakeholders in the implementation of the new agreement,” he added.

Mr. Lodge added, “The pressure is now on the ISA Council to deliver. We come together now with the work on the Mining Code well advanced and with six weeks of negotiating time before us, not including inter-sessional work.”

After adopting the agenda, the Members of the Council elected H.E. Mr. Juan José González Mijares (Mexico) as the President of the Council for the 28th session.

In his opening statement, Ambassador González Mijares underscored the importance of the task assigned to the Council by UNCLOS in relation to the current negotiations. “The draft regulations on exploitation of mineral resources in the Area are an integral part of UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement to achieve the sustainable use of mineral resources based on the principle of the common heritage of humankind. Previously, ISA and its organs approved regulations on exploration, opening a vast world for marine scientific research, technology and enterprise to assess resources in the Area contributing to the discovery and knowledge of the deep sea,” he said.

“It is my aim during the presidency of this session to uphold the principles, rights and duties enshrined in UNCLOS. I invite all Members to negotiate in good faith to make substantive advances in the different parts of the draft regulations. I will be a facilitator, open to dialogue to find common ground on the more contentious issues of the regulations and agreements on the easier ones,” he further added.

The following country representatives were elected as Vice Presidents for each regional group: Canada (Western European and Others), Ghana (African Group) and the Republic of Korea (Asia and the Pacific Group).

The open-ended working group on the financial terms of contracts, established by the Council in July 2018 to discuss a financial model and payment mechanism for deep-sea mining and chaired by Mr. Olav Myklebust (Norway), then held its seventh in-person meeting and resumed its discussions on the Chair’s text. The meetings of the open-ended working group will continue until Friday, 17 March.

The other working groups established by the Council in February 2021 on i) the protection and preservation of the marine environment, facilitated by Dr. Raijeli Taga (Fiji), ii) inspection, compliance and enforcement facilitated by H.E. Dr. Maureen P. Tamuno (Nigeria) and iii) institutional matters, co-facilitated by H.E. Ms. Georgina Guillén Grillo (Costa Rica) and H.E. Ms. Constanza Figueroa Sepúlveda (Chile), will hold their fourth meetings and resume their discussions on the facilitators’ texts and the regulations related to their topic. The other regulations will be discussed in an informal setting as part of the revised President’s text.

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