International Seabed Authority Council Discusses Exploitation of Deep Seabed Mineral Resources
UN Photo/Martine Perret
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The Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) discussed the draft regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources in the deep seabed.

It deliberated a payment mechanism, as well as the need to strengthen regulations on the implementation of the principle of common heritage of humankind, and the protection of the marine environment.

It was followed by a meeting of the ISA Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), held from 12-23 March.

12 March 2018: The Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) discussed the draft regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources in the deep seabed. It deliberated a payment mechanism, as well as the need to strengthen regulations on the implementation of the principle of common heritage of humankind, and the protection of the marine environment.

The Council met from 5-9 March 2018, in Kingston, Jamaica, during the first part of the 24th annual session of the ISA. It is being followed by a meeting of the ISA Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), set to convene from 12-23 March. This is the first time that the ISA annual session is divided in two parts according to a revised meeting schedule meant to increase transparency and engender a mutually responsive dialogue between the LTC and the Council. The second part of the session will be held in July 2018.

The main item discussed by the Council was the draft regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources in the deep seabed, which was addressed in an informal format with a view to conveying non-binding guidance to the LTC, as a Council President’s statement. Delegates exchanged views on six themes: understanding the pathway to exploitation and beyond; the payment mechanism; the role of the sponsoring state (which has the responsibility to ensure, within its legal system, that a contractor carries out activities in the Area in conformity with the terms of its contract and UNCLOS obligations); the role and legal status of standards, LTC’s recommendations and guidelines; broader environmental policy and regulations on exploitation; and the roles of the Council, Secretary-General, and the LTC in the regulations on exploitation.

The ISA was established as an autonomous institution under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Part XI and the 1994 Implementing Agreement to organize and control activities in the Area, particularly with a view to administering the resources of the Area. 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, including polymetallic nodules. UNCLOS established that the Area and its resources are the common heritage of humankind.

The ISA, which is based in Kingston, Jamaica, is mandated to, among other things, provide for the necessary measures to ensure the effective protection for the marine environment from harmful effects, which may arise from mining activities in the Area. The ISA organs include the Assembly, the Council, the Finance Committee, the LTC, and the Secretariat. The Assembly consists of all ISA members and has the power to: establish general policies; set the two-year budgets of the Authority; approve the rules, regulations and procedures governing prospecting, exploration and exploitation in the Area, following their adoption by the Council; and examine annual reports by the Secretary-General on the work of the Authority, which provides an opportunity for members to comment and make relevant proposals.

The Council consists of 36 members elected by the Assembly representing: state parties that are consumers or net importers of the commodities produced from the categories of minerals to be derived from the Area (Group A); state parties that made the largest investments in preparation for and in the conduct of activities in the Area, either directly or through their nationals (Group B); state parties that are major net exporters of the categories of minerals to be derived from the Area, including at least two developing states whose exports of such minerals have a substantial bearing upon their economies (Group C); developing state parties, representing special interests (Group D); and members elected according to the principle of equitable geographical distribution in the Council as a whole (Group E). The Council is mandated to establish specific policies in conformity with UNCLOS and the general policies set by the Assembly, and supervise the implementation of the Area regime.

The LTC is an organ of the Council consisting of 30 members elected by the Council on the basis of personal qualifications relevant to the exploration, exploitation, and processing of mineral resources, oceanography, and economic and/or legal matters relating to ocean mining. The LTC reviews applications for workplans, supervises exploration or mining activities, assesses the environmental impact of such activities, and provides advice to the Assembly and Council on all matters relating to exploration and exploitation. The reports of the LTC to the Council are discussed during the annual sessions of the Authority. [IISD RS Coverage of the ISA Council Meeting] [Meeting Webpage]


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