DSCC Interventions

11 Nov 2022

DR 22

This intervention is given on behalf of The Ocean Foundation as well as DSCC. 

This provision raises the possibility of a contract being pledged as security, and therefore of the mortgagor stepping in the place of the contractor or selling the contract: then the provisions ensuring the suitability of the contractor in Draft Regulation 13 are pointless. Anybody could then be doing the mining. Further, if a contract can be pledged as security, that could render any financial security meaningless, as the only real asset could be the contract itself: a circular outcome that further brings into question where, in what format, and in how much money would  actually be set aside to fulfill various Contractor obligations under the Regulations.

No public participation would have addressed the technical and financial fitness of the owner of the contract and effective control would be rendered meaningless.

Being able to transfer contracts in this way for purely financial reasons could enable a whole new contractor to carry out activities in the Area.

To be specific: we noted last week that Tongan contractor TOML was bought by DeepGreen, yet the due diligence on technical and financial appropriateness was only done for Nautilus, which was by that stage in liquidation.

DR 23

Thank you, on behalf of Oceans North and DSCC, we welcome the comments from PEW, and wish to comment further. We consider DR 23 to be a dangerous provision, as it allows an entity other than the assessed applicant to carry out mining. There is no residual discretion to refuse a transfer even though the identity of the contractor is very important. Currently DR 23 (paragraph 7) reads the LTC “shall recommend approval of the application”  if criteria are satisfied. There is no discretion. It would be unacceptable that a whole different contractor should step into the previous contractor’s shoes, so to speak, automatically after the mining application has been predicated on the assessment of the identity of the applicant under DR 13.

DR 24

This is a critical provision about change in control. The discussions here must be aligned with the discussions of effective control in the institutional working group. We have three points about this draft regulation 24.

Firstly, controlling interest is not defined in paragraph 1 and must be discussed in the context of the Institutional Working Group. 

Secondly, currently as drafted in paragraph 3 the Secretary-General would have full power to determine whether the contractor will have the financial capability to meet its obligations under the exploitation contract. 

Thirdly, even if the Secretary-General does decide to notify the Commission, the only consequence under paragraph 4 is that the Commission shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Council. In other words, there are no consequences to a change in control: this goes to the heart of both effective control and the assessment of the contractor.

DR 27

Contractors should not be required to start commercial mining. There could be many reasons a contractor chooses not to start mining, including concerns or lack of information on the environmental effects of any mining.

Indeed, TMC itself stated in a recent US Securities and Exchange Commission SEC filing that, and I quote, “Operations in the CCZ are certain to disturb wildlife and may impact ecosystem function. Impacts on CCZ biodiversity may never be completely and definitively known”. 

This lack of knowledge underlines why a moratorium on deep-sea mining is essential.

DR 28

Paragraph 3 would require the contractor to suspend production whenever such reduction or suspension is required to protect the Marine Environment from harm or to protect health and safety. We read this as additional to emergency orders to require the contractor to take action before any such measures.

But as discussed in other working groups, the threshold of serious harm is too dangerous. The applicable standard should be to protect the marine environment from any harm as required by  Article 145.

10 Nov 2022

IN RESPONSE TO FRANCE’S STATEMENT ON A BAN ON DEEP-SEA MINING

Bonjour à toutes et à toutes, Monsieur le Président, chers délégués,

Je m’appelle Anne-Sophie Roux, je fais partie d’un réseau international de jeunes engagés pour l’océan, la Sustainable Ocean Alliance, dont je suis la représentante en France. 

Ici, avec la Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, je fais partie des quelques jeunes envoyés siéger dans ces négociations, qui sont absolument cruciales pour notre génération. Car cette génération, tout comme les suivantes, fait déjà face aux conséquences dramatiques de la crise environnementale. Et l’exploitation minière des fonds marins ne ferait que l’empirer. 

Or, face à l’accélération de la crise climatique, l’océan est notre plus grand allié. Nous ne pouvons pas nous permettre de le compromettre.Face à la 6e extinction de masse, nous ne pouvons pas nous permettre de rayer de la carte des espèces entières que les scientifiques commencent tout juste à découvrir et à comprendre.

Good morning to all, Mr. President, dear delegates,

My name is Anne-Sophie Roux, I am part of an international network of young people committed to the ocean, the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, of which I am the representative in France. 

Here, with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, I am one of the few young people sent to sit in on these negotiations, which are absolutely crucial for our generation. 

Because this generation, like the next, is already facing the dramatic consequences of the environmental crisis. And seabed mining would only make it worse. 

As the climate crisis accelerates, the ocean is our greatest ally. We cannot afford to compromise it.

In the face of the sixth mass extinction, we cannot afford to wipe out entire species that scientists are just beginning to discover and understand.

I would like to thank France for joining the growing movement of States that raise the alarm on the necessity to oppose the adoption of the mining code and the approval of mining contracts. I would like to congratulate France for setting this level of ambition to stop deep seabed mining. France and the States in this room have made international commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Today, I can say that I am proud that my country is upholding these commitments. 

We are here, at this stage, thanks to a mobilization that started with Palau, Fiji, Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia – the countries of the Global Alliance of Countries calling for a Moratorium on deep seabed mining in the Pacific and around the world. We are here thanks to  Chile, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Panama, and Ecuador, who have made bold political decisions that put nature where it should be: front and center. 

We are here thanks to the Global Alliance of Parliamentarians that was announced at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon. We are here thanks to the massive civil society and youth mobilization, online and on the field, in France and all over the world. 

So the vision is here. And we should not forget that there is an agenda for 2023 and we need to secure that there is no mining code adopted and no exploitation starting. 

In response to those who have raised UNCLOS: As France said, our work should meet the challenges of today, including biodiversity. Let us not find obstacles and build fences, but instead find pathways and bridges to protect the ocean. Already BBNJ is close to being finalised. We need that kind of creativity and openness to moving forwards. 

The deep ocean is needed to mitigate the climate crisis. The deep ocean is needed to not make the collapse of biodiversity worse. The deep ocean is needed to sustain living conditions on Earth. The deep ocean is the common heritage of human and non-human kind. This is our duty to protect it.

Thank you Mr. President for the floor.

ON THE NAURU OCEAN RESOURCES INC (NORI) ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

Thank you Mr President

We take the floor on behalf of DSCC and Oceans North regarding the recently approved NORI EIS, announced by The Metals Company in September. 

We align ourselves with the observations from the IUCN and the States that have raised concerns, and in particular stress our objections to the fact that the revised EIS was examined and approved behind closed doors, by a small sub-group of the LTC under silence procedure, with no notification to stakeholders, the public, or Council. We are concerned that the LTC did not meet its obligations, in that the Guidelines clearly state in paragraph 41f, that in the event the contractor resubmits the EIS, the revision must be subject to stakeholder consultation. And yet, as many others have noted, it was not. Furthermore, at no stage did Council have any opportunity to review the revised document, which, as observed by a number of delegates, still has not been made public  – and which allows NORI to mine 3600 tonnes of nodules. 

Test mining has therefore begun, without a single state saying “yes” to it. The approval was granted by a mere handful of human beings – hardly representative of humankind as a whole. As we sit here, a dangerous extractive experiment is underway.

Many of us were present for last week’s presentation of the test mining being undertaken in the Pacific Ocean as we speak. The presentation failed to show a single image of the mining area after the removal of nodules, or the marine life that has been harmed or indeed killed over the last few weeks. There was no acknowledgement of the species impacted on the seafloor or throughout the water column. It was also clear that no sampling was undertaken in the water column where the return discharge was taking place prior to deciding the depth of the plume release. The DSCC finds this revelation highly concerning as scientists have repeatedly warned us of the impact of sediment plumes, whether or not the plume is toxic. Additionally, this means a plume of unknown composition was being released into the ecosystem.  

Fundamentally, this underlines two conclusions:

  1. The ISA is not fit for purpose in regulating deep-sea mining and associated activities. If this EIA for a component test could escape scrutiny so easily under the Recommendations, there is no hope for an EIA under the two year loophole where there are no applicable recommendations or procedures in place.
  2. No amount of manoeuvring can avoid the fact repeatedly emphasized by DOSI and many other scientists that there is no baseline available and will not be for many years, and without that baseline, effects cannot be assessed. As was stressed eloquently by the youth at our side event on Monday, we are seeing shifting baselines in ecosystems we have years of data for, but we simply do not have that data for the deep sea. We cannot continue to tacitly accept and exacerbate the loss of biodiversity. 

Thank you.

DR 18

Paragraph 4 currently provides that an exploitation contract shall provide for security of tenure and shall not be revised, suspended or terminated except in the stated restrictive situations.

We note in this content that Article 19 of Annex III provides in paragraph 2 that “Any contract entered into in accordance with article 153, paragraph 3, may be revised only with the consent of the parties.” (being the ISA Secretary General and the contractor)

This more than any other provision underlines why a moratorium on deep-sea mining is necessary. A contract granted may be in force for 60 years or more, including multiple 10 year renewals. This gives rise to the crucial question of intergenerational equity: multiple future generations would be saddled with these damaging contracts if deep-sea mining were to go ahead.  With climate change, biodiversity crises and unanticipated situations, anything can happen. A contractor should not be able to insist on pressing ahead with damaging mining based on a contract granted decades ago, regardless of intervening situations.

9 Nov 2022

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON INSTITUTIONAL MATTERS

DR 4

On this agenda item, we have two brief observations. Firstly, we join the many delegations on the need to ensure that all references are aligned with Article 145 and refer to ‘harmful effects’.

Secondly, there is no reference to the loss or degradation of biodiversity and “damage to flora and fauna” is not broad enough to capture this concept as a whole.

DR 5

While the new (c) and (d) would require that there is sufficient information that the applicant has the necessary financial, technical and operational capability to carry out the proposed Plan of Work, there is a fundamental problem. As we discussed last week, contracts can be assigned under Regulation 23, so that a new unassessed company could carry out any mining. This possibility must be considered in this context.

8 Nov 2022

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON INSTITUTIONAL MATTERS

DR 1

Thank you. We just have a brief observation to bring to the attention of delegates. ITLOS said in its Advisory Opinion that It should be stressed that the obligation to conduct an environmental impact assessment is a direct obligation under the Convention and a general obligation under customary international law, and likewise we would add that the precautionary principle is also part of customary international law.

DR 2 – Paragraph 2

We just have a comment on the title as well as the discussion taking place at the moment about principles versus policies.

On the title, we believe that Draft Regulation 2 must revert to being called fundamental principles, as it should include critical principles such as the common heritage of humankind, the precautionary principle, effective protection of the marine environment and no loss of biodiversity. These principles are cornerstones of the Convention and international environmental law and are by  their nature fundamental and cannot be weighed against other matters. They’re critical to the interpretation and application of regulations.

So likewise, we do not support policies and approaches being included in the title as they are by their nature weighed against each other, whereas fundamental principles such as the common heritage of humankind cannot be displaced by other principles or policies.

DR 2 – Paragraph 3

On Paragraph 3 we think this is an important provision, placing in context the relevant provisions of the Convention. It is also relevant to the expressed concerns and positions of an increasing number of countries on the importance of adequate scientific evidence.

Given that a number of delegations have said they agree with the objective and content, we suggest it should be left here for now. We cannot presuppose what will happen later, so it should not be deleted. On the face of it, and as it stands, it provides important guidance  to the Authority, in underlining the need for adequate scientific evidence, the importance of preventing harmful changes to the marine environment.

DR 2 – Paragraph 4

In Paragraph 4, we do continue to suggest there should be fundamental principles reflecting Article 145 paragraphs (a) and (b) which would in addition to the items from roman numeral (i) to (vii) include that:

  • There will be no loss of biodiversity;
  • That rare or fragile ecosystems and their habitat will not be depleted or threatened; 
  • That species will not be endangered; 
  • That other forms of marine life will be protected; 
  • And, that there will be no interference with marine ecosystems and their resilience, or with ecosystem services, underwater cultural heritage or other harmful effects, including ecological balance, biological diversity and ecological integrity;
  • Robust and independent science.

We also suggest that the definitions of an ecosystem approach, referring to the CBD Decision V/6 and of the polluter pays principle according to Principle 16 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development need to be re-inserted as well as the best available science and information, and the precautionary principle according to Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration.

On transparency, we welcome the currently proposed provisions on access to data and information, and note that under Article 14 of Annex III of UNCLOS, Data necessary for the formulation by the Authority of rules, regulations and procedures concerning protection of the marine environment and safety, other than equipment design data, shall not be deemed proprietary.

We like both Germany’s proposal of public participation and also Norway’s suggested term stakeholder participation as well as Nigeria’s suggestion of both. What is important is that there is participation in decision-making.

Finally on inter-generational equity, those who were at our side event yesterday will have seen a powerful argument and example of the importance of including younger generations throughout decision-making processes. 

There is after all ample precedent in Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration for the needs of present and future generations.

Thank you

DR 3(d)

We know that pollution, such as from plumes, can travel well beyond contract areas and indeed beyond adjacent States – with some estimates suggesting thousands of kilometers, though it could be further. This pollution may affect for example fish populations that may themselves travel beyond the affected area, such as tuna.

These issues involve the interests and concerns of any state, not just coastal States. 

This discussion underlines that we know so little about the effects of seabed mining and their scope that it is impossible to even craft effective regulations. This fully supports the calls for a moratorium, precautionary pause or ban.

4 Nov 2022

On what if what if an application for full, commercial scale deep-sea mining is submitted in the absence of regulations

On behalf of DSCC, Oceans North, and The Ocean Foundation

We appreciate the opportunity to intervene on this crucial topic and express our appreciation that sufficient time is being dedicated to this discussion. 

Since the creation of UNCLOS, our knowledge of the deep sea and ocean as a whole has grown exponentially. The more we learn, the clearer it becomes that our lives are linked to – and dependent on – the ocean. This is not just a legal or economic discussion. Opening our ocean to deep-sea mining without understanding the consequences would be an unacceptable planetary gamble. If that gamble goes wrong, we are risking a domino effect of unintended environmental consequences for our and future generations.

There is an ethical dimension to this issue regarding our relationship as humankind to the ocean. It would be incomprehensible that a minority of countries could or would authorize deep-sea mining as of next year in spite of lack of support, disagreement, or opposition from a significant number of ISA members and across a broad spectrum of society. This is a decision that would have global ramifications and would go down in history as a breach of our right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, and the rights of future generations to a liveable world. 

We urge States to take the time needed and to make responsible, evidence-based decisions anchored in the precautionary principle. We must recognize that the obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment are more important now than ever. In light of increasing stressors on the ocean, the climate and biodiversity crises, and our growing understanding of the interconnectivity of the ocean, climate, and terrestrial ecosystems, it is crucial that the decisions made by the ISA prevent further harm. We reiterate our thanks to the countries that have expressed support for a precautionary pause or moratorium to date – in our eyes, this is the only viable way to ensure the long-term protection of the marine environment. The future of our ocean is in your hands and the world is watching.

3 Nov 2022

Transfer of rights & obligations under a contract

Thank you Mr President and good morning delegates. We are speaking on behalf of the DSCC and Oceans North. 

The procedure and criteria for consideration of a request for the transfer of rights and obligations under a contract for exploration and supporting documents lack a discussion, let alone formulation, of a key issue of a transfer is effective control, as Costa Rica outlined.

Continue reading DSCC Interventions – 3.11.22

2 Nov 2022

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE PROTECTION AND PRESERVATION OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT 

Annex IV

This Annex cannot be developed properly as there is simply not enough scientific information to do so, for any of the three types of mining (being nodules, cobalt-rich crusts, and hydrothermal vents).  As we have seen with the recent NORI EIA, there is no environmental baseline available.

Also in terms of overview, as some delegations have said in other agenda items, the distinction between EIA and EIS is artificial and leads to confusion and duplication and they should be combined.

In terms of process, there is no proper structure to consider EIAs; no independent scientific evidence; no hearing; and no appeal or review of decisions or recommendations. There is no scientific committee, and place for stakeholders to submit independent scientific information and make comments on the applicant’s scientific evidence. 

Rigorous examination of scientific evidence, including by peer review as Costa Rica noted, and the participation of independent scientists and submission of independent scientific reports is crucial.  A forum for such independent science to be submitted by concerned States and submitters is  a fundamental element of a robust EIA process.

1 Nov 2022

Informal working group on Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement

DR 102

We join other delegates in expressing our condolences and sympathies for the people of India and South Korea for the tragic events.

We agree with the Netherlands that monitoring of environmental effects should not be qualified by ‘where technically feasible”. 

In paragraph 2 bis the term “Plume dispersal” is too narrow and fails to account for plume trajectory, composition and biological effects, including the effects of chemical contamination of the water column In general there is no reference to species, either on the seabed or in the water column.

Secondly, in paragraph 2 (bis) we join the concerns of delegations including Costa Rica that the inclusion of adaptive management here is misplaced.Adaptive management must not be used where it is inconsistent with the precautionary approach – such as when there is inadequate information, which is indeed the case, and where the damage could be serious.

Thank you, Madam Facilitator,

DR 103

The excessively permissive nature of these regulations is seen in para 4, where the contractor is given the opportunity to make representations, following which the Compliance notice may be withdrawn.  

There are no provisions for Council members, observers or others to make representations. This is essential to transparency. There is no basis for only allowing the contractor to make representations and not to allow others to do so as well. In addition, any representation should be made public. 

This highlights one critical reason that the DSM regulations must not be adopted: contracts may be in existence for many decades, yet even serious, persistent or wilful violations may not give rise to termination of a contract.

In paragraph 6, seriousness of the violation does not itself include environmental effects consequent on the violation. This gives rise to issues of liability for the consequences of the violation, which has never been comprehensively discussed by the Council.

Informal working group on the protection and preservation of the marine environment 

Opening statement

Firstly, allow me to make a very brief observation on the fund. The idea that a compensation fund can be used to implement measures to “prevent” damage is flawed and misleading. By the very nature of compensation, the damage would already have been done. Furthermore, the ISA’s mandate is for the effective protection of the marine environment. It is therefore not acceptable to merely “limit” or “remediate” damage. It is suggested that this Fund might finance restoration and rehabilitation, but the Best Available Scientific Evidence suggests that neither would be possible in the fragile realm of the deep-sea.

Furthermore, offset compensation is essentially meaningless in the context of the deep sea, and is not a substitute for failing to effectively protect the marine environment. These ecosystems are often completely unique and do not grow back — this richness cannot be replaced. 

DR 56 also has a severe limitation: the fund would have no assets in it to cover mining operations unless miners were required to pay directly into the fund before any activities start. Annual contributions will not alter this fact. Unless contractors are willing to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars before they start mining, the Fund cannot be effective.

Having not had the opportunity yesterday, we hope the distinguished delegates will indulge two more general statements from the DSCC and our colleagues at Greenpeace, as we begin the working group that is central to our work as environmental NGOs. First and foremost, we would like to reiterate our thanks to the numerous States that spoke out yesterday to defend our liberty to participate in these discussions. As concerns surrounding deep-sea mining grow, the number of Observers has grown also, and we are working together to streamline our interventions.

The DSCC consists of over 100 organisations, a number of whom are sitting by our side here today. Collectively, the Coalition membership and their supporters represent several million people concerned for nature and for both human and non-human life. For too long, our species has pillaged and plundered the Earth, systematically violating the web of life that we are part of.  We often refer to the ISA’s obligation to act for the benefit of humankind as a whole. But perhaps it is time for us to start acting for the benefit of allkind. Deep-sea mining will have fatal consequences for life in the deep; life that holds intrinsic value and is also intricately connected to the well-being of our own species – because these life forms are part of the biological carbon pump that keeps us breathing, part of the trophic chains that sustain our fisheries.

We all acknowledge the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels, but there is a biodiversity crisis as well: opening up a whole new planetary frontier of biodiversity loss and endangering one of the most important natural carbon sinks is only going to create new problems, not resolve existing ones. There are other, more sustainable pathways to be found in rapidly evolving technological and social solutions. 

The discussions unfolding here at the ISA are not just about deep-sea mining. They are about whether or not we decide to perpetuate the extractive paradigm that is leading inexorably to the demise of life as we know it. There is a fundamental decision to make: do we continue down the same unsustainable pathways of extraction? Or are we on the cusp of a new era: an era where we tread more lightly in our world? 

There have been some notable developments since we last met, including the highly questionable ‘approval’ of the NORI test mine, by email under the silence procedure and without the full participation of the LTC. Council was not notified, let alone given the opportunity to review the test mine EIS and the ensuing ‘decision’. As a result, test mining has begun in the Pacific, and no States have actually said “yes” to it. 

We would finally like to take this opportunity to congratulate New Zealand on their recently announced moratorium position, and Germany and Panama on their stances in favour of a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining. We also pay our deepest respects to the 8 other countries that have in the last 6 months expressed support for a moratorium or precautionary pause. Needless to say, we stand by your side and call urgently for a moratorium or pause on potentially the largest mining operation in the history of humankind. It is not needed, it is not wanted. 

DR 60

Delivered by Oceans North on behalf of Oceans North and DSCC

This intervention is also on behalf of DSCC, and our intervention is underpinned by the important scientific clarification provided by DOSI.

At the outset, I want to stress that we believe the ecological damage, scientific uncertainties, and institutional deficiencies require a moratorium on DSM. But if a closure plan is to be discussed, we have a few comments.

If you would humour me briefly, could the delegates under 30 years of age raise their hands? 

What about the delegates under 25 years of age? 

I ask because in this section we are discussing closures that would happen decades from now, when the effects of mining are impacting the youth of today and the generations who come after us. 

Now onto the specifics, paragraph 1 states that the Contractor only needs to submit its closure plan 24 months prior to the planned end of mining, which would be decades away, it should instead be done at the time of application. 

On a few other points: The Closure and any post-closure monitoring plan should be approved by the Council, as DOSI said, and in paragraphs 2-5 the Council should have an opportunity to review the documents.

The proposed public consultation provisions would be many decades – or lifetimes – before any closure occurs. Thus,  public consultation would need to be ongoing, as these projects will span generations who will all be burdened with the damage that would have been caused by deep-sea mining. We are discussing an industry that wouldl impact people who would have had no say in these negotiations, or in the latter application procedures,  and that is a breach of intergenerational justice. 

31 Oct 2022

Opening of the session

“Thank you Mr President and good morning delegates

Thank you for giving us the floor. We are taking the floor on behalf of all the Observers present – including DSCC, the Pew Charitable Trusts, DOSI, Greenpeace, Oceans North, IUCN, and The Ocean Foundation –  to address your proposal about restricting observer interventions. 

We thank Costa Rica for their observations on this proposal and for their offer together with the delegation of Chile, as facilitators of the institutional WG.

We also thank New Zealand for their intervention, requesting targeted and appropriate interventions, and for their request for reconsideration, as well as the support of the Netherlands, Australia,  Belgium, Canada and the United States.

Mr President, already and of our own accord, we had already planned to keep interventions within 3 minutes, to keep them targeted  and to combine with other observer delegations to ensure we avoid repetition.

We believe that this proposal to exclude observers from making observations on specific regulations. would be inconsistent with the procedure adopted in the UN, and specifically in BBNJ, where civil society made short and structured interventions on each article – the equivalent of each regulation.

Because the Area and its resources are the common heritage of humankind, it is as – or more – important that as diverse and broad a group of stakeholders as possible have a voice in these proceedings.  

Mr President, this is a matter of enormous public interest throughout the world, as it concerns the common heritage of humankind.  We would like to highlight that we collectively represent several million people concerned with the deep sea and its health, and who have the right to be heard when the fate of the common heritage of humankind is being decided.

We hope that our proposal to keep interventions short and targeted on each draft regulation, and combine to the greatest extent possible is acceptable to delegations.”

Draft regulation 97

“A very brief intervention on a matter of principle regarding certain reflections on gender parity and geographical representation in the roster of inspectors. We are in a period of transition that requires a certain degree of social effort in order to achieve the balance that would ultimately optimise the economic functioning of our societies. Representation is absolutely essential to ensuring that those who are underrepresented in certain sectors today reach for things that they would not have reached for 40 years ago. We therefore fully support the position of the distinguished delegate of Sierra Leone.”