During its annual meeting, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) set a target date of 2020 to finalise the regulations for the exploitation of minerals in the deep sea, bringing the start of large-scale mining within close range. During the meeting, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition called on the member states to open closed doors, bring transparency to the heart of its work and to put into place an Environment Committee.

Country representatives from all over the world gathered for two weeks (8th - 18th August) in Kingston, Jamaica, for the 23rd annual session of the International Seabed Authority. In addition to addressing the environmental regulation, the meeting also concluded a two-year review to assesses how the International Seabed Authority needs to adapt its structure and working methods to meet the challenges of managing the impacts of industrial mining across wide areas of the deep ocean floor, while ensuring it fulfills its responsibility to act in the common interest of all humankind.

While some progress was made on transparency, in particular the “affirmation” that “non-confidential information, such as that relating to the protection and preservation of the marine environment should be shared widely and be readily accessible” and “encouraging’ the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission to hold more open meetings. It fell short on specifics including the failure to establish an environmental committee that would ensure transparency and address the many scientific uncertainties surrounding potential impacts of mining on deep-sea ecosystems.

The urgent need for an Environmental Committee was highlighted when the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition brought to the attention of the ISA their approval of a claim by Poland that was in fact in an area in the mid-Atlantic Ridge which has been tagged by the Biodiversity Convention as an Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area. The MARE Foundation, Seas At Risk’s Polish member, is currently running a petition asking the Polish government to cease sponsoring deep sea mining.

During the meeting, the International Seabed Authority agreed to a target date of 2020 to finalise the regulations to govern commercial deep-sea mining in the international area of the seabed. If this target is met, large-scale commercial mining of the deep seabed could begin in international waters within a few years, assuming market conditions are favorable. The Draft Regulations on Exploitation of Mineral Resources in the Area are open for consultation till 17th November 2017.

Seas At Risk is a steering member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. In the run-up to the annual session of the International Seabed Authority, Seas At Risk launched a call to France, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom and Poland to cease sponsoring deep sea mining contracts with the ISA and to champion sustainable consumption and production instead.

More information: Deep Sea Conservation Coalition press release

Deep sea mining Sulphur and metals B