Background and RESOLVE Projects

Economics, technology, and geopolitics are pushing exploration and development of mineral resources into new frontiers. Frontier mining, including deep seabed mining (DSM), presents opportunities and risks for key stakeholders including industry, NGOs, governments, and communities. DSM is a rapidly emerging frontier activity both in marine areas under national jurisdiction and in the area beyond national jurisdiction (or the Area). DSM in the Area is regulated through the International Seabed Authority (ISA), but the regulatory regime is incomplete. The ISA is undertaking a process of developing its regulatory framework, or exploitation code, and a first draft of this code was issued in July 2016.  The most recent revised draft of the code was released in July 2018.

Since 2014, RESOLVE, with various partners, has worked to bring together stakeholders involved in a variety of DSM-related endeavors to provide input on best practices for transparency in DSM, analyze the economic benefits to be derived from DSM within and beyond national jurisdiction, and investigate potential mechanisms for sharing such benefits. Thus far, projects undertaken include:

Toward Transparency and Best Practices

An Initial Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Meeting

Conference Overview:

The Conference on Transparency and Best Practices for Deep Seabed Mining convened representatives from industry, academic and civil society communities, national governments, and international organizations at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy, to discuss a number of foundational issues in the design of a regulatory regime for deep seabed mining (DSM). The primary focus of the conference was to formulate initial consensus on transparency and best practices in DSM in general, as well as to inform the design of an exploitation code by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). A first draft of this code is intended to be issued in 2016 [NOTE: a report containing a working draft of the Regulations and Standard Contract Terms on Exploitation for Mineral Resources in the Area was released at the 2016 ISA Annual Session.]

Final Report:

Toward Transparency and Best Practices For Deep Seabed Mining Final Report

Additional Work on Fiscal Framework:

One of the key topics discussed by the group, related to the second priority deliverable for development of financial modeling within the exploitation code, as reported by the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), was the design of an appropriate payment regime for deep seabed mining in the Area. The conversation at the meeting built upon discussions that took place in relation to the payment regime during the Joint ISA-CIL Workshop on Mineral Exploitation in the Area held in Singapore in June 2015. After the October 2015 conference concluded, a working group developed a Deep Seabed Mining Fiscal Framework.

Bellagio Fiscal Framework WG 161115 Final

Enhancing Stakeholder Participation and Transparency in the ISA Process

Workshop Overview

The International Seabed Authority (ISA or the Authority) is at a pivotal point: a transition from the exploration to exploitation of deep-sea mineral resources of the Area is in sight and the Authority is beginning to develop exploitation regulations. A report containing a working draft of the Regulations and Standard Contract Terms on Exploitation for Mineral Resources in the Area was released at the 2016 ISA Annual Session. In addition, pursuant to UNCLOS Article 154, a review of the ISA was initiated in 2015-2016. An interim report documenting findings of the review was released in May 2016 and discussed at the 2016 ISA Annual Session.

These milestones point to a ready opportunity to consider the governance of the ISA, including stakeholder participation and transparency in its decision-making processes. Recognizing this juncture, The Pew Charitable Trusts and RESOLVE, in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils on Oceans and on the Future of Mining and Metals, convened the Workshop on Enhancing Stakeholder Participation and Transparency in the ISA Process, providing the chance for a variety of stakeholders to share and discuss their perspectives regarding stakeholder participation and transparency. Participants included country delegates, council members, Legal and Technical Committee (LTC) members, contractors, members of the secretariat, and observers, among others.

Final Report:

ISA Transparency Side Event - 07-16-16 - Meeting Report - FINAL with Logos

From Paper to Practice: Implementing the Mining Code Workshop

Workshop Overview

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, a broad group of stakeholders, including country delegates, council members, contractors, observers, LTC members, and Finance Committee members, gathered in Ocho Rios, Jamaica to discuss their vision for the future of the ISA. During the day-long workshop, From Paper to Practice: Implementing the Mining Code, participants had the opportunity to share their perspectives on what will be required of the ISA as it evolves from a regulation-writing institution to a regulation-implementing institution, including the new institutional capacities that may be required and what can be learned from experiences in other national and international contexts.

The workshop final report, agenda, and presentations are available below.

Final Report

From Paper to Practice - Workshop Report - FINAL

Workshop Materials

This side event was organized by the Pew Charitable Trusts and RESOLVE. Steering Committee members included LIU Feng, COMRA; Hannah Lily, Commonwealth Secretariat; Chapi Mwango, ISA Secretariat; Conn Nugent, The Pew Charitable Trusts; Torsten Thiele, Global Ocean Trust; Joshua Tuhumwire, Gondwana Geoscience Consulting, Ltd.; and Jennifer Warren, UKSR.

Common Heritage of Mankind: Definition and Implementation

Workshop Overview

A broad group of International Seabed Authority (ISA) stakeholders met in Ocho Rios, Jamaica on Saturday, July 21, 2018 to discuss the Common Heritage of Mankind (CHM) as used in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and its implementation through the ISA. The workshop started with an overview of CHM by Mr. Dire Tladi, University of Pretoria. Then, member State representatives and stakeholders representing other interests shared their perspectives on CHM. The workshop moved to discussions among participants, in small groups and plenary, regarding what needs to be done to address CHM before exploitation begins and once it is underway, and the challenges the ISA might face in implementing CHM.

Workshop Final Report: CHM 2018 Workshop - Summary - Final v2

The workshop was sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts and RESOLVE. In addition to representatives from those organizations, the Steering Committee included: Liu Feng, China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association; Aline Jaeckel, Research Fellow, Macquarie University; Thembile Joyini, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa; T. Suka Mangisi, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Tonga to the United Nations; and Jennifer Warren, UK Seabed Resources.

ISA Inspections and ISA Inspectorate: What Will be Needed?

Workshop Overview

A broad group of International Seabed Authority (ISA) stakeholders met in Irish Town, Jamaica on Saturday, July 20, 2019 to discuss the requirement for an ISA Inspectorate, what role the Inspectorate would play, and how to make it as functional and effective as possible. The workshop included plenary and small group discussions focused on what needs to be inspected by the Inspectorate regime, what the role(s) of the inspectors could be, what the relationship of the ISA to the inspectors could be, what other ways of monitoring the ISA could employ to complement on-site inspections, likely challenges, and principles that should govern the Inspectorate regime.

The workshop closed with participants reiterating important outstanding questions for the development of an ISA Inspectorate, such as how to finance the Inspectorate and how to take enforcement action on basis of the findings of the Inspectorate. No consensus was sought or reached, other than agreement that independence and impartiality should be cornerstones of any ISA Inspectorate regime, and that the subject matter was important, complicated, and multi-faceted in scope. Participants emphasized that States have a unique opportunity to create a deep seabed mining regime that is fit for purpose before exploitation begins, which will require some challenging policy decisions by the ISA.

Workshop Final Report: 2019 Jamaica Workshop - ISA Inspections and ISA Inspectorate - Summary FINAL

The workshop was sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts and RESOLVE.

2020-2023: Webinar Series on DSM Draft Regulations

Webinar Series Overview

Since 2020, RESOLVE and Pew have hosted a series of webinars on the draft regulations for seabed mining. In an effort to ensure wide participation of stakeholders in different time zones, the timing for webinars are staggered, and sessions will be recorded.

The first webinar in the series focused on a new report, “Assuring Environmental Compliance in Deep-Sea Mining: Lessons from Industry and Regulators,” which studies different compliance regimes and sets forth recommendations for the International Seabed Authority and its stakeholders. Dr. Kevin Murphy, an environmental consultant with decades of experience advising mining and other extractive industry stakeholders, authored the report with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The webinar provided an opportunity to hear an overview of the report and recommendations from Dr. Murphy, as well as questions with some of the panel of experts that shaped it.

In the second webinar in the series, a panel of scientific experts discussed seabed mining’s impacts in the water column. Jeff Drazen, University of Hawai’i at Manoa provided an overview of these impacts, as detailed in a recent article: “Midwater ecosystems must be considered when evaluating environmental risks of deep-sea mining.” In addition, Jesse van der Grient, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and Steven Haddock, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and University of California, Santa Cruz, presented on the possible effects of DSM on fisheries and in the bathypelagic. The webinar also provided an opportunity to hear how this kind of new information could inform decision-makers when considering proposed seabed mining activities, including reflections from Dr. Tomohiko Fukushima, Deep Ocean Resources Development, and Michelle Walker, Deputy Solicitor General, International Affairs Division, Attorney General's Chambers of Jamaica and chair of the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission.

The third webinar in this series provided an opportunity to consider models of environmental decision-making models in other sectors and jurisdictions. What are the key factors underpinning environmental decision-making that may be relevant to the governance of deep seabed mining? During the webinar, Angelique Pouponneau, Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust, will present elements and rationale of stakeholder engagement in environmental decision-making. Dr. Mark Squillace, University of Colorado School of Law, will share a comparison between the ISA and the US mining regime, drawing from a recent paper on the subject. Dr. Neil Craik, University of Waterloo and Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, focused on environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and compare global models with the ISA’s EIA regime.

The fourth webinar in the series was a special session co-hosted with the Permanent Mission of the Federated States of Micronesia, focusing on the importance of  cultural knowledge and diverse perspectives in managing our relationship with the deep ocean. The webinar featured a conversation between Dr. Diva Amon and Ms. Nicole Yamase regarding their experiences as ocean scientists from Small Island Developing States, including Ms. Yamase’s achievement as the first Pacific Islander to visit the Challenger Deep trench. Mr. Clement Yow Mulalap shared perspectives from the Federated States of Micronesia on cultural considerations important to ensuring the effective management of the deep ocean.

The fifth webinar in the series took place on Wednesday, 10 November. The webinar provided an opportunity to hear experts’ perspectives on national and international systems for incorporating stakeholder input into environmental decision-making and learn how these might be applied to governance of the deep seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction. During the webinar, Ms. Alex Herman, Seabed Minerals Commissioner at Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority, will shared a national perspective on stakeholder participation through her experiences with seabed management in the Cook Islands. Ms. Elisa Morgera, Director, One Ocean Hub, presented an international perspective on stakeholder participation in international human rights and environmental law. Ms. Pelanatita Kara from the Civil Society Forum of Tonga shared a community perspective on encouraging local participation in environmental decision-making and Dr. Aline Jaeckel, Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales, will provide her thoughts on the current landscape and next steps on stakeholder participation at the ISA.  

During the sixth webinar in the series, international legal experts presented an Opinion regarding the legality of a moratorium or precautionary pause on deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This Opinion, written by four eminent international law experts, including King’s Counsel Prof. Zachary Douglas, former Attorney-General Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu and Matrix Chambers’ barristers Toby Fisher and Jessica Jones, includes an elaboration on whether a moratorium is consistent with States' obligations under UNCLOS.

The seventh webinar in this series will focus on benefit sharing and the common heritage of humankind, and explore what constitutes equitable distribution. During the webinar, Dr. Dale Squires, professor in economics at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the authors of a recent Technical Study, will present a brief overview of that report and provide the conceptual basis for equitable benefit sharing from a multidisciplinary lens. Dr. Daniel Wilde, Economic Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Hannah Lily, an independent legal consultant specializing in deep sea mining issues, will present issues raised in a recent paper they co-authored on benefit-sharing.

African Group Deep Seabed Mining Policy Workshop

Workshop Overview

Representatives of national governments from across the continent of Africa met at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration in Accra, Ghana on 30-31 January 2019 to learn about and discuss deep seabed mining policy. The workshop provided members of the African Group and other participants an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the key issues on the agenda at the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) Council Meeting and discuss their perspectives on these issues.

The workshop was co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN and the Permanent Mission of Ghana to the UN, in collaboration with the African Minerals Development Centre, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and RESOLVE.

The workshop began with welcomes from the Ghana Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Mrs. Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, and the Ambassador of Algeria to Ghana, H.E. Mr. Youssef Delileche. The Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, opened the workshop. During the workshop, presenters shared updates on key issues related to deep seabed mining policy and participants had an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of emerging issues during a panel discussion with the presenters. The workshop concluded with a closed African Group session to coordinate preparation for the upcoming Council meeting.

Payment Regime Workshop #1

Workshop Overview

The May 2016 Deep Seabed Mining Payment Regime Workshop #1 convened representatives from industry, academic and civil society communities, national governments, and international organizations at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego to discuss a number of foundational issues in the design of a payment regime for deep seabed mining (DSM) activities in the area beyond national jurisdiction (the Area). The primary focus of the workshop was to contribute towards the further development of a deep seabed mining payment regime for the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Final Report:

Conference Report - DSM Payment Regime Workshop May 2016 Final

Payment Regime Workshop #2

Workshop Overview

The Deep Seabed Mining Payment Regime Workshop #2 took place in London on December 1-2, 2016 and was focused on developing a financial modeling framework.

Final Materials:

Final Report: DSM - PRW2 - Workshop Summary - FINAL

Cost Components of a Financial Model: Components of Financial Model Final as of January 27 2017

Meeting Materials:

Agenda: DSM Payment Regime Workshop #2 Agenda v9

PRW #2 - Background Resources

PRW #2 - Workshop Presentations and Resources

Payment Regime Workshop #2

Workshop Overview

Payment Regime Workshop #3 took place April 19 - 21, 2017 in Singapore at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

This was the third in a series of workshops focused on exploring the key elements of an International Seabed Authority (ISA) payment mechanism and the broader financial regulations that would apply to exploitation contracts for polymetallic nodules. This workshop provided an opportunity for participants to continue efforts to develop a working financial model (cost and revenue) to share with the ISA and, in particular, the Legal and Technical Committee. The group also explored additional issues important to consider in the development of a payment regime in the course of the workshop.

This website includes the final meeting report, meeting materials, meeting presentations, background materials, and additional resources referenced during the meeting.

Final Report:

Final Meeting Report

Cost Components of a Financial Model - Glossary of Terms (Updated May 5, 2017)

Meeting Materials:

Workshop Agenda

Participant List

PRW #3 - Background Resources

PRW #3 - Workshop Presentations and Resources

Conference on Transparency and Best Practices for Deep Seabed Mining
October 2015
Deep Seabed Mining Payment Regime Workshop #1
May 2016
Workshop on Enhancing Stakeholder Participation and Transparency in the ISA Process
July 2016
Deep Seabed Mining Payment Regime Workshop #2
December 2016
Deep Seabed Mining Payment Regime Workshop #3
April 2017
From Paper to Practice: Implementing the Mining Code Workshop
August 2017
Common Heritage of Mankind: Definition and Implementation Workshop
July 2018
African Group DSM Policy Workshop
January 2019
ISA Inspections and ISA Inspectorate: What Will be Needed?
July 2019
DSM Webinar Series
2020-2023