SEABED COUNCIL DISCUSSES REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR MINERAL EXPLOITATION
JAMAICA, Kingston (21 July 2015) – – The Council of the International Seabed Authority yesterday afternoon began consideration of a document produced by the Legal and Technical Commission on Developing a Regulatory Framework for Deep Sea Mineral Exploitation in the Area.
The draft framework for the Exploitation Regulations contains a Preamble which sets out the objectives and overarching principles/purpose of the regulations and ten parts and two annexes: Part I – Introduction and use of terms and scope; Part II – Applications for approval of plans of work for exploitation in the form of contracts; Part III – Contracts for exploitation; Part IV –Protection and preservation of the marine environment; Part V –Confidentiality; Part VI – General Procedures; Part VII – Enforcement, offences and penalties; VIII – settlement of disputes; Part IX –Other mineral resource categories and Part X –Review.
Annex I covers applications for approval of a plan of work for exploitation to obtain a contract, and Annex II deals with Standard Clauses for exploitation contract plus schedules.
The summary of high level issues include information data; activities in the Area; the transition between exploration and exploitation phases; risk assessment, evaluation and management; time limits and costs and confidentiality. Other issues are: effective protection of the environment from harmful effects; adaptive management; “internationally recognized standards” and their significance in exploitation activities; a clear definition of the division of duties and responsibilities of the Authority and sponsoring States; and “high-grading” of mineral deposits.
The rest of the subjects are: existing best practice, learnings, co-operation and information-sharing; ISA-stakeholder consultation; mining inspectorate/ directorate / environmental regulator; an interim framework; and whether there should be one over-arching framework.
The draft action plan/priority deliverables contains (1) a summary of priority deliverables for the next 12-18 months that the Legal and Technical Commission was to present to the Council during its current 21st session and (2) a revised Action plan and prioritization, based on stakeholder comments. The Commission proposes that further work is performed on the Action plan, including target/realistic milestone dates and full costing as its delivery will, inter alia, be dependent on adequate resources being made available.
The Seabed Council also took note of a document addressing serious harm to the marine environment in the regulations for the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area (ISBA/21/C/13), submitted by the delegation of the Netherlands. It proposed further incorporation of provisions into the exploitation regulations to cover serious harm and threats to the marine environment by activities of contractors in the international seabed Area. Its representative said the objective was to build upon the legal framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the achievements of the Authority to date, including the adoption of the three sets of regulations governing exploration for mineral resources of the Area.
Also at yesterday’s meetings, the Council approved plan of work for exploration for polymetallic nodules submitted by China Minmetals Corporation. The Corporation, which is sponsored by the People’s Republic of China, submitted its application to the Secretary-General on 8 August 2014. The region under application covers a surface area of 72,745 km2 within the reserved areas in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean. The area consists of eight blocks, which are distributed across the Fracture Zone.
The Council also approved a memorandum of understanding between the Authority and the Pacific Community aimed at promoting the development of regional and national regulatory frameworks that supported the interests of Pacific Island States and their efforts to regulate and manage activities undertaken under their effective control in the international seabed Area.
The Seabed Council will reconvene on Wednesday (22 July) as the Seabed Assembly reconvenes today to hear the report of the Secretary-General (21 July).