Negotiations Advance on Regulations for Exploiting Seabed Mineral Resources
At the first part of the 26th annual session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA-26), the ISA Council’s substantive discussions focused on the draft regulations for the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area (the draft exploitation regulations). “The Area” is defined as the seabed and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, and its “resources” as all solid, liquid, or gaseous mineral resources in situ in the Area at or beneath the seabed.
Once the regulations are concluded, they will govern future activities in the Area. Negotiators are striving to ensure the regulations provide environmental protection while balancing stakeholders’ interests.
During the ISA-26 talks, which took place from 17-21 February 2020, in Kingston, Jamaica, delegates also engaged in discussions over new proposals on regional environmental management plans (REMPs), which ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge described as “one of the most important work streams of the ISA over the last two years.”
Furthermore, they discussed the financial model for mineral exploitation in the Area, agreeing to convene a fourth meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) to further this work.
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the meeting notes that delegates were reminded that the self-imposed deadline for completing the exploitation regulations is 2020, which has put the ISA Council “under pressure to agree on a mining code. Further, while the commercial viability of exploitation of minerals from the deep sea depends on many factors, from technology to mineral prices, contractors and sponsoring states are eager for the clarity that a regulatory code would provide.” At the same time, some members and observers have stressed the need for marine scientific research and adequate stakeholder engagement, to ensure environmental protection and conservation.
The second part of the Council session is scheduled to take place in July 2020. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of ISA-26].