China Hosts Deep-Sea Exploration Contractors Meet

October 15, 2019

Photo: International Seabed Authority
Photo: International Seabed Authority

The third annual meeting between the International Seabed Authority (ISA) Secretariat and the contractors with deep-sea exploration contracts in the international deep-seabed (the Area) concluded in Changsa, China on Sunday.

Delegates gathered at the three-day meeting hosted by China Minmetals from October 11-13 to discuss areas of common interest, and the next steps in moving from exploration to the sustainable development of deep-sea mineral resources.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, ISA Secretary-General Michael W. Lodge highlighted the need to advance the development of regulations for deep-sea mineral exploitation (the Mining code). “It is vitally important to step up the momentum and adopt a Code that is pragmatic and effective but at the same time flexible enough to adapt to new knowledge and changing circumstances,” said Lodge. “We should not miss this generational opportunity.”

Once adopted, this would be the first time in history that global rules, based on the highest level of prudence and precaution, are approved before an industry starts. In his remarks, Mr. Lodge also underscored the need for greater transparency in regards to activities undertaken in the Area.

It is in the spirit that in July this year, ISA launched the DeepData database, aimed at making publicly available all the environmental data collected by contractors and other sources through one portal. Currently, the database contains biological, physical and geochemical parameters of the marine ecosystems from the seafloor to the ocean surface, submitted by ISA contractors and covering approximately 1 per cent of the Area.

“The research undertaken by contractors is the main source of data and knowledge helping us to better understand the deep seabed ecosystems and functions,” added Mr. Lodge. “It is through this research that we will be able to identify the best measures required to minimize environmental impacts wherever in the ocean they occur.”

The key focus of this year’s meeting was to discuss the types of deep-sea data the contractors can contribute to the DeepData database in order to ensure effective environmental protection and enhance transparency, along with issues related to annual reports and periodic reviews.

This is the third annual contractors meeting to be held since the first meeting was initiated by the Secretary-General in Kingston Jamaica in 2017, followed by Warsaw, Poland in 2018. The meeting provides a valuable forum for the Secretariat and contractors to discuss issues of common interest, and to share best practice in deep-sea exploration.



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