This collaborative invitation-only expert meeting is part of the IASS deep-sea mining (DSM) project, which was launched at the 2014 Potsdam Ocean Governance Workshop. The meeting will consider key considerations that could affect the future of deep-sea mining. How transparency and accountability has (or has not) played a role will be examined as part of the analytical framework.
With several economic, environmental, and engineering unknowns, deep-sea mining appears to be a high-risk venture. Additional uncertainties regarding its future governance and regulation can only add to this risk profile. These factors, combined with generally weak metals prices, have arguably kept well-established and large mining companies away from investing in DSM, leaving the field open for small start-ups and other new players, who bring with them an appetite for risk, enthusiasm and new perspectives, but a general lack of operational mining experience. Nevertheless, there is growing excitement about a possible deep-sea “bonanza”. Two years ago, UK Prime Minister David Cameron optimistically proclaimed that deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction could be worth 40 billion pounds to his country alone. Even if it were so, experiences from land-based mining and petroleum development suggest that such an influx of income into a state’s economy can be a very mixed blessing, particularly for small and developing states. They can face an array of institutional, social, environmental, economic, and regulatory difficulties, many of which (metaphorically like a “curse”) may be unexpected, or at first glance seem unrelated to the resources.
Deep-Sea Mining, an uncertain Future, a meeting hosted by the IASS and GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, 15-16 April 2015, will
- consider governance lessons learnt from land and offshore petroleum and contrast these to the realities faced by small island developing states
- consider environmental obligations in the light of the recent decisions by New Zealand declining two offshore mining applications
- explore how the principle of common heritage of mankind (captured in the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Part XI agreement) could still, more than fifty years after its inception, affect the regulatory, social, and business environment for DSM.