The International Seabed Authority (ISA) Council concluded its deliberations for the first part of ISA’s 28th session, adopting two substantive draft decisions for deep sea mining.
Highlights of the day included:
- discussion on the report of the Chair of the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC);
- adoption of a decision relating to the establishment of the position of an interim director general of the Enterprise; and
- adoption of a decision on the two-year rule; and
- the Dominican Republic joined the calls for a precautionary pause on deep sea mining.
On the LTC Chair’s report, many delegates welcomed the implementation of training programmes by the contractors, particularly for nationals of developing countries. On regional environmental management plans, Brazil stressed that they should be in place before a plan of work is approved, while Argentina and China emphasized their non-binding legal nature.
On environmental thresholds, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and others noted that additional thresholds should be considered, including for habitat loss due to the removal of nodules. Many delegates underscored that intersessional work on thresholds, to be carried out by a group and sub-groups of experts under the guidance of the LTC, should be open-ended rather than limiting the number of experts to 10 for each sub-group.
On the incident during test mining by The Metals Company (TMC) - Nauru Resources Inc. (NORI) regarding the discharge of wastewater containing debris, sediment, and fragments of nodules from the seabed into the sea at surface level, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Costa Rica expressed concerns. They queried whether the contractor promptly reported to the Secretariat on the incident or only after it was revealed by civil society. Greenpeace International, on behalf of environmental organizations, validated the concerns.
On the decision relating to the establishment of the position of an interim director general of the Enterprise, Germany and Singapore proposed adding that the Secretary-General shall explore all options to deliver the establishment of the proposed positions within the existing budget and, if not possible, provide detailed justifications before asking for a supplementary budget. Following restructuring suggestions by Ghana, on behalf of the African Group, and the Russian Federation, the Council adopted the draft decision.
On the decision on the two-year rule, delegates agreed, among others, to continue the intersessional dialogue, which will be facilitated by Belgium and Singapore. The Co-facilitators will prepare a new briefing note for the Council to consider, and during the July 2023 Council meeting at least two half-day sessions will be devoted to discussing the outcome of the intersessional dialogue.
Many delegates emphasized that difficult compromises were necessary to bridge divergent positions and reach consensus. They further emphasized that no commercial deep sea mining activities may commence before a robust framework is in place to ensure, among others, the protection and preservation of the marine environment, in line with relevant obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Some lamented that “the legal loophole was not closed,” noting there is no provision for the Council to provide relevant guidance to the LTC, as its subsidiary body, regarding the consideration of potential applications for plans of work for exploitation before the complete set of regulations, rules, and procedures, including standards and guidelines, are in place. Others noted the need to respect the LTC’s independence and its role in reviewing applications for plans of work.
President Mijares thanked all delegates, observers, Secretariat staff, and interpreters for their commitment and hard work. He underscored important intersessional work and gaveled the meeting to a close at 5:02 pm.
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary and analysis of the first part of the ISA Council for the 28th session will be available on Tuesday, 4 April 2023.
Text written and edited by Asterios Tsioumanis, Ph.D., María Ovalle, and Pam Chasek, Ph.D.
All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For the 1st Part of the 28th Annual Session of the ISA, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera
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