Editor’s note: The text of this webpage was updated on Oct. 6, 2020, to clarify that international law requires countries to have national legislation that assures contractors comply with mining regulations.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is the only governing body responsible for issuing exploration and mining rights for areas of the ocean floor that are beyond national jurisdiction. It grants those rights to countries or to entities—such as private companies—that nations sponsor.
International law requires the countries involved to have national legislation ensuring that contractors comply with the ISA’s mining and exploration rules, including those governing the health of the marine environment. These laws are critical to securing compliance with international rules and regulations and filling gaps where the international framework falls short. Yet many countries—including some that already sponsor seabed mining—do not have such laws.
Many countries have called for the development of a model law to offer guidance and create consistency among nations that are sponsoring ISA-issued seabed mining contracts. To advance the creation of these important pieces of legislation, a team of regulatory specialists assembled under the Code Project—a Pew-sponsored coalition of scientific and legal experts from around the world—wrote a template law that policymakers can adapt for their own countries.
The legislation includes nine sections, ranging from institutional issues to sponsoring application procedures to dispute resolution. The Code Project has compiled an accompanying toolkit that contains explanations for various components.
This template law will also provide the ISA—which is developing a mining code to regulate seabed mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction—with a touchstone for dividing labor between itself and sponsoring countries. These types of complementary rules will help ensure that if this prospective industry moves forward, it is subject to appropriate regulation and accountability.