Deep-sea mining negotiations closed in Kingston, Jamaica, with member countries of the Council hotly debating but failing to agree on a procedure to handle applications for provisional licenses after a deadline expires on 9 July 2023.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) are meeting intensively in 2023 with the aim of agreeing and adopting deep-sea mining regulations, after Nauru triggered the “two-year rule” in 2021 on behalf of Nauru Ocean Resources Inc, a subsidiary of Canadian company, The Metals Company. This means that States must finalise and adopt regulations for deep-sea mining within 24 months or else consider ‘provisionally’ approving applications for mining licenses submitted after the two year deadline.

The ISA, established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, has authority over the ocean floors outside of its 167 member states’ Exclusive Economic Zones.

It has so far awarded seabed exploration contracts only to research centres and companies in well-defined areas of potential mineral wealth. Industrial exploitation of nickel, cobalt or copper is not expected to begin until the adoption of a mining code that has been under discussion for nearly 10 years – including at the latest talks in Kingston. A partnership with the UK Department for Business & Trade holds licences and contracts to explore the Pacific sea floor for polymetallic nodules.


Photo: The Metals Company

Moratorium, pause or ban?

For years, non-governmental organizations and scientists have warned of the damage seabed mining could inflict on deep-sea ecosystems.

Numerous countries are supporting a pause, moratorium or ban on deep sea mining, including Vanuatu, Palau, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand, Panama, Samoa, Germany, Costa Rica, Chile, Spain, Panama, Ecuador and France.

Observers of the recent ISA meetings said there was no clear view whether the ISA will permit mining to begin in the near future and that delegates didn’t have sufficient time to discuss these concerns at the meetings.

This story has been collated from sources including DSCC, France24, Reuters, Greenpeace, WWF, and Mongabay.

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