The attempt to establish a regional regulatory mechanism, the Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework for Deep Sea Minerals (DSM) Exploration and Exploitation has been applauded by non-government organisations.
However, they have also raised concerns at the exclusion of key voices from civil societies, particularly those representing indigenous communities, who are likely to be most affected by DSM.
The assessment of the framework by international law firm Blue Ocean Law noted that the oversight was not minimal, and risked substantial, irreversible harm to the interests and survival of indigenous groups in the region.
Blue Ocean Law attorney Julian Aguon said such exclusion was no longer passable under international law and existing frameworks devoted to the protection of human rights of indigenous groups.
He said the regional legslative regulatory framework was devoid of any incorporation of basic international human rights law, an omission which risked framing DSM entirely as an industry and environmental proposition, when in fact it was likely to affect many foundational rights of local and indigenous island communities. An assessment report contains a section by section critique framework.
In its assessment, the law firm said the Regulatory Framework for Deep Sea Minerals (DSM) Exploration and Exploitation stated that different mining methods would be employed because of the different types of mineral deposits associated with the deep sea (eg, seafloor massive sulfides, polymetallic nodules and cobalt rich crust).
According to the framework, each DSM project would need to be assessed by any State, on the basis of its individual workplan.
The assessment report stated the different types of DSM activities were described in the framework but a process for the assessment was not provided, nor was there any built-in mechanism for consultation with DMS project affected communities.
Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) co-ordinator Maureen Penjueli said when the SPC-EU funded project started looking at the seabed mining issue, PANG and its partner organisations were gravely concerned by the lack of scientific knowledge particularly around potential or actual impacts of seabed mining from an environmental, social, and cultural perspective.
"There was also a significant lack of knowledge about the technology and its potential impact," Ms Penjueli said.