Environmental Policy News

Deep Sea Mining News: International Seabed Authority Partners with DOSI and IHO

The Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) has been granted observer status at the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The decision was made official during the 22nd Session of the ISA at its headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica the week of July 11-15, 2016. At this same gathering, the ISA and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) signed an Agreement of Cooperation.

Most applications for deep sea mining exploration thus far are in relation to polymetallic nodules: rock forms with concentric layers of iron and manganese as well as rare earth minerals. Also of interest to mining companies are polymetallic sulphides: deposits with three or more metals, such as copper, zinc, lead, iron, gold and silver, in commercial quantities. While the concentration of these minerals is much higher in deep sea nodules than it is in natural land deposits, the challenges of deep sea mining are daunting.

According to DOSI, there is an urgent need to identify and develop comprehensive, ecosystem-based management practices for deep-ocean environments subject to mineral extraction in addition to the development of criteria for deep-sea institutional and corporate social responsibility to include transparency. There is currently accelerated interest in deep seabed mining and a consequent need for strategic and transparent vision within the ISA that looks to future protection and preservation of the marine environment while enabling use of seabed resources. Any such analysis should consider cumulative impacts, economic incentives, resource use conflicts, technology to serve environmental management, monitoring and enforcement strategies, criteria for scientific areas of particular interest, and confounding effects of external anthropogenic inputs (stresses from climate change, fishing, ocean acidification, etc.).

Dr. Maria C. Baker, INDEEP Project Manager/DOSI Co-Lead, said, “We look forward to strengthening our collaborations with this UN organization and DOSI network members stand ready to support the Authority in the development of the best possible mining code.”

The July/August issue of ECO features an exclusive interview with the CEO of another ISA observer organization, Chris Goldblatt of The Fish Reef Project. He discusses the environmental challenges, including what is being done to mitigate these, and much more. Don’t miss it. Subscription to ECO is free here.

In other news from the annual meting, the ISA and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) signed an Agreement of Cooperation. The Agreement will help facilitate the exchange of bathymetric survey data, development of compatible digital input in relation to nautical charting requirements, global consistency in the treatment of bathymetric data covering ISA contract areas, development of a global approach to issuance of notices to mariners related to navigational warnings, development of standardized information in nautical publications that draw mariners' attention to installations used by ISA contractors and development of charting policies that address hazards related to concurrent activities in the ISA contract areas.

The ISA is an intergovernmental body tasked with controlling deep-sea mining in international areas. It has responsibility for distributing proceeds from such ventures to States party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, establishing international rules to protect and conserve the marine environment, and promoting and encouraging scientific marine research. It was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982).

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