The 23rd annual session of the International Seabed Authority discussed draft regulations on the exploitation of marine minerals in the international seabed Area, among other topics.
The session took stock of more than 20 years of operations in the context of the first periodic review of the regime.
18 August 2017: The 23rd annual session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) discussed the final report on the first periodic review of the ISA pursuant to Article 154 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), among other items. The ISA Council discussed draft regulations on the exploitation of marine minerals in the international seabed Area.
The ISA was established as an autonomous institution under UNCLOS Part XI and the 1994 Implementing Agreement to organize and control activities in the Area, particularly with a view to administering its resources. UNCLOS defines the Area as the seabed and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, and its resources, including all solid, liquid or gaseous mineral resources in situ, at or beneath the seabed. The Authority, based in Kingston, Jamaica, came into existence on 16 November 1994, and became fully operational in 1996. Among other things, the ISA is mandated to ensure the effective protection of the Area’s marine environment from the impacts of mining.
According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), this session of the ISA was to take stock of more than 20 years of operations in the context of the first periodic review of the regime. Delegates eagerly awaited the review, especially since the ISA is expected to transition over the next two years from a preliminary phase of managing the prospecting and exploration for minerals in the deep seabed into finalizing regulations for their exploitation.
The ISA is expected to transition from a preliminary phase of managing the prospecting and exploration for minerals in the deep seabed into finalizing regulations for their exploitation.
The ENB reported that many delegates welcomed: the public release of the draft exploitation regulations, which were open for stakeholder comment on the basis of a series of general and specific questions proposed by the Secretariat; and the Assembly decision on the periodic review, which addresses transparency and environmental issues. The decision also includes a revised meeting schedule, which is expected to engender a mutually responsive dialogue between the Commission and the Council on the draft exploitation regulations.
Review Committee Chair Helmut Tuerk called the adoption of an Assembly decision on all the Review Committee’s recommendations “a great step forward in ISA’s history.” Most delegations were pleased with the decision as a “first step” towards strengthening the ISA and improving its chances to deliver the promises of the common heritage regime as well as an indication of ISA members’ taking full ownership of each recommendation.
The Council discussed, inter alia: the status of contracts for exploration and related matters; the status of legislation; implementation of previous decisions; exploitation regulations; data management; environmental management plans; and administrative matters. Other issues addressed included: the issue of impacts on Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) in applications and contracts; approval for mining technologies; regulatory development; the balance between economic development and environmental protection; protection of the marine environment; and dispute settlement. [IISD RS Coverage of ISA-23] [The International Seabed Authority]