Overline: RIFS Discussion Paper
Headline: Legal Consequences of Hesitancy over Deep-sea Mining

Negotiations on draft text regulations for deep seabed mineral exploitation activities will resume next week at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston, Jamaica. Owing to the invocation of a treaty provision known as the two-year rule in June 2021, the Council of the ISA is faced with a deadline to complete and adopt the regulations by 9 July 2023. It is likely that the Authority will miss this deadline. What will happen if this occurs? A RIFS Discussion Paper provides some insights and possible interpretations.

Deep sea

There are a lot of legal uncertainties and open questions, which the member states of the ISA are now starting to discuss with the hope of finding common ground. One step toward this is an informal intersessional dialogue of the ISA Council, co-facilitated by Belgium and Singapore, which will take place on 8 March 2023. The RIFS Discussion Paper “’What if’ revisited: Open legal questions in light of the two-year rule at the International Seabed Authority”, prepared by RIFS Fellow Pradeep Arjan Singh, will be presented to delegates involved in the dialogue.

Singh argues that the deadline should not be treated as a hard one and that there is, in fact, no rush to blindly allow seabed mining to commence. Indeed, the Council is empowered to disallow any seabed mineral exploitation activities until such time as there are robust and scientifically-sound regulations, and other critical components are in place. Such an interpretation would support, for example, that the member states of the ISA retain control over the process, as opposed to industry, as well as Germany's position among others at the ISA calling for a precautionary pause or delay on deep seabed mining activities activities. The discussion paper will form part of RIFS's contribution to the dialogue webinar today and during the upcoming ISA Council meeting in Kingston.

Singh, P. (2023): "What if" revisited: Open legal questions in light of the two-year rule at the ISA. - RIFS Discussion Paper, March 2023.

Pradeep Singh at ISA
Pedro Martins Simões and Elza Moreira Marcelino de Castro, Brazil; Pradeep Singh, RIFS; and Jose Roberto Gioia Alfaia Junior, Brazil (L-R) at the negotiations of the International Seabed Authority on 23 March 2023 in Jamaica. IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera