U.N.-backed regulator Council of the International Seabed Authority ruled out any immediate permission for deep-sea mining to begin after a meeting in Jamaica ended without agreement on how to regulate the industry, reported Reuters.
“What seems crystal clear is that the majority of states feel very uneasy about a license being granted before the regulations are in place, enough scientific research is done, and the effective protection of the marine environment can be ensured,” said Jessica Battle, ocean expert at the Worldwide Fund for Nature, in August.
At the heart of the debate, Reuters noted, is a loophole known as the “two-year rule” that states the council must “consider and provisionally approve” applications two years after they are submitted, whether it finalized regulations or not.
The Pacific island of Nauru triggered the rule in July 2021 on behalf of a subsidiary of Canadian-based The Metals Company. However, the International Seabed Authority said that it has not received any applications to start mining yet. If it receives an application for a “plan of work” before it finishes setting up regulations, the council said it would prioritize making a decision on how the two-year rule should be applied at its next meeting.
“It is now a question of when – rather than if – commercial-scale nodule collection will begin,” said The Metals Company Chairman and CEO Gerard Barron.
“I believe the finish line is now within sight and we look forward to the consolidated regulatory text at the next meeting in November 2023.”