The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 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 later this year or in 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.
The Pew Charitable Trusts established its seabed mining project in 2016 to ensure that the ISA’s regulations establish large no-mining zones in ecologically important areas and impose precautionary standards to minimize environmental damage where mining is allowed.
In 2017, Pew assembled the Code Project, an international collection of scientists and legal scholars, to review each installment of the ISA’s draft regulations. Thirteen specialists from nine countries analyze the proposed rules and provide expert feedback via reports issued to the ISA and its member governments. In addition to environmental issues, the Code Project experts review ISA drafts on financial regulations, data management, transparency, and public consultation.