BBNJ: Deep-sea mining

Black, potato-sized polymetallic nodules scattered on the seafloor are drawing prospectors for their cobalt, nickel, copper, and manganese. Credit: 2019 Southeastern U.S. Deep-sea Explora-tion/Office of Ocean Exploration and Research/NOAA

According to Daniel Currie from the High Seas Alliance, the BBNJ treaty will not set rules and regulations for mining at sea. Nor will it stop deep-sea mining. Contrary, the law will, by itself, stop deep-sea mining from starting in the ocean. The International Seabed Authority, backed by the UN is set to start taking deep-sea mining applications in July 2023 for the extraction of cobalt, copper, nickel, and manganese.

The BBNJ Agreement does cover the conservation of marine biodiversity including Marine Genetic Resources (MGR) on the sea bead in areas beyond natural jurisdiction. Thus, implies that the agreement can set up a number of institutional mechanisms but also the scientific-technical body and mechanism for cooperation. Essentially, more places to bring up concerns and resolve them through diplomacy.

The treaty contains obligations and procedures parties needed to follow once it comes into force. A number of specific provisions, mainly around cooperation. Initially, parties are required to promote the treaty objectives when participating in bodies such as the International Seabed Authority (ISA) as well as fisheries management organizations. Seemingly, the ISA is required to cooperate with the BBNJ. Parties need to ensure the ISA follows environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures laid out in the treaty. Even though, the ISA does not yet have binding regulations or standards regarding EIAs for deep-sea mining activities, parties to the ISA and BBNJ will be obligated to cooperate and coordinate with the ISA to ensure the EIAs and provisions for transparency are carried out consistently within areas beyond natural jurisdiction. Thus, assuring that visions of the ISA are consistent with the BBNJ requirements.

For MPAs under the BBNJ that cover the seabed. Parties are to promote the adoption of relevant measures within the ISA and that the activities are conducted consistently with the High Seas treaty decisions. Meaning that one body cannot control the activities of the other body. But rather, state parties in those bodies have the obligation to act consistently in the various agreements.

Source: High Seas Alliance

Source High Seas Alliance

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