Nations Put New Focus on Environmental Impacts of Deep-Sea Mining

Date: March 23, 2018

Source: Oceans Deeply
Author: Todd Woody

Those were the words of Olav Myklebust, president of the council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) on March 5 as he opened the semi-annual meeting of the United Nations-chartered organization charged with protecting the fragile and unique ecosystems of the deep ocean while opening them up to industrial mining.

The ISA has operated in relative obscurity from its Kingston, Jamaica headquarters since its creation in 1994 – mainly because mining for manganese, cobalt, copper and other valuable minerals at depths that can reach 13,000ft (4,000m) was long considered not technologically or commercially feasible.

That has changed in recent years. The seabed authority is now in the midst of writing regulations – called the mining code – that will govern how private companies and state-backed corporations mine the area of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction: the seabed, underwater mountains called seamounts and hydrothermal vent fields that are home to unique life forms and ecosystems. The mining code will also establish what environmental standards will apply to mining and what protections will be put in place to safeguard those habitats. And it will direct how the financial bounty from mining will be shared among nations as “the common heritage of mankind,” as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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