Summaries of Stakeholder Submissions on the ISA Draft Exploitation Regulations

Second report of the Code Project

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) took major steps at its annual session in August 2017 to advance the development of a Seabed Mining Code. It was agreed that the ISA Council would convene twice a year in order to meet an ambitious timetable under which the ISA could approve exploitation regulations by 2019.

The first step in that process had been taken by ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge. Shortly before the 23rd Annual Session, he submitted a document entitled “Draft regulations on exploitation of mineral resources in the Area” a first attempt to write the rules to cover all aspects of ISA exploitation contracts: environmental, financial, and administrative. Secretary-General Lodge also prepared a list of specific questions on the draft and invited answers to those questions from ISA Member States and stakeholders.

Fifty-five comments were received. Nineteen were from Member States, of which 10 were from sponsoring States. Twelve contractors submitted comments. Twenty-four additional stakeholder comments were received, including 18 from organizations and 6 from individuals. The number of comments was the largest in recent memory. Most submissions addressed the Secretary-General’s questions, but also went on to comment on a broad range of topics pertinent to the development of a final text. The ISA has prepared a “Briefing note on the submissions to the draft regulations on exploitation of mineral resources in the Area” that further describes the submissions received.

The number and variety of stakeholder submissions prompted members of the Code Project to try to summarize these responses and key issues raised therein. The idea was to produce a tool that would aid Council members in their deliberations in Kingston. In so doing, the Code Project contributors were faced with the challenge of compressing comments without losing too much of their breadth and depth.

That challenge was met by the international scientific and legal experts who constitute the Code Project. For this report, 12 contributors from 6 countries were involved. They are: David Billett; Duncan Currie; Andrew Friedman; Andrey Gebruk; Leonardus Gerber; Kristina Gjerde; Renee Grogan; Daniel Jones; Laleta Davis Mattis; Stephen Roady; Winnie Roberts; and Philip Weaver. Because of the far-flung character of the enterprise, papers may vary in style and presentation. And no summaries, however artful, can substitute for the fully developed papers submitted to the Secretary-General. They can be found here.

The Pew Charitable Trusts contributed financial and logistical support to this project.

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Development of Seabed Mining Regulations

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The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) established the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and invested it with the sole power to govern seabed mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Mining on the international ocean floor cannot take place until the ISA approves exploitation regulations, and drafts of those regulations are now under consideration. Final approval is expected in 2020 or 2021. For perhaps the first time in history, a governing body and its member governments have the chance to establish rules for an extractive industry before it begins.