Exploitation rules and regulations: ISA 23rd Session in Kingston Jamaica

An important aspect for the successful development of Deep Sea Mining of Polymetallic Nodules is the establishment of a legal framework for exploitation of the seabed, specifically in the waters outside the Exclusive Economic Zones, also known as The Area. The International Seabed Authority (ISA, Kingston Jamaica) is an autonomous institution established under the UNCLOS, and responsible to organise and control activities in The Area and therefor for the established of the legal framework for exploitation.

In yearly sessions the Assembly decides on this legal framework, in which a lot of details are arranged, which are based on two main principles: resources in the Area are for the benefit of humankind and the protection of the environment.

Not being a diplomat or a lawyer requires a certain amount of adaptation before you can appreciate the code of conduct and the diplomatic processes that are crucial to create consensus between all the 168 member states. Being part of the Dutch delegation as technical support in this years’ session provided a lot more appreciation for the difficult and very complex task the ISA have in hand. And for sure the rules and regulations will influence our own complex task of creating an environmentally and technically feasible mining system. It is therefore very important for all involved to keep listening and inform each other and most of all to appreciate all the different aspects and funny angles this enterprise might turn into.

This year the 23rd session was specifically interesting because it established important steps to make faster progress. First of all a timeline was adopted which shows approval of the regulations for exploitation in 2020. To be able to achieve this tight timeline the second step taken is the adaptation of a split session in 2018 and 2019. Two sessions will allow for more efficient discussions, quicker decision making and hopefully adoptation even earlier than 2020. The third step is the release of the Draft regulations for comments by stakeholders which provides the opportunity for discussions on content in the two sessions next year. The exploitation regulations are crucial to attract future investment for the next steps to maturity of Deep Sea Mining.

Laurens de Jonge

Details on the UNCLOS, the ISAS and The Area can be found on their website: https://www.isa.org.jm/

Summary of the 23rd Session of the ISA in August 2017, Kingston – Jamaica: https://www.isa.org.jm/sessions/23rd-session-2017 and http://enb.iisd.org/download/pdf/enb25151e.pdf and http://enb.iisd.org/isa/2017/about.html

Draft Regulations: www.isa.org.jm/files/documents/EN/Regs/DraftExpl/ISBA23-LTC-CRP3-Rev.pdf

Figure 1: Assembly of the ISA (photo IISD Reporting Services)

Figure 2: Council of the ISA (photo IISD Reporting Services)

Figure 3: Dutch Delegation in the Council of the ISA (photo IISD Reporting Services)