Headline: Undermining by Mining? Deep Seabed Mining in Light of International Marine Environmental Law

Some forty years ago, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) created an unusual regime for states to collectively manage common natural resources on the international seabed beyond national jurisdiction (known as the Area) through the International Seabed Authority (ISA). In the intervening years, scientists have increasingly been warning about the serious environmental risks of mining seabed minerals. At this pivotal point in time, when states are negotiating whether or not to allow seabed mining, this essay explores the risk of undermining by mining, that is, contravening international marine environmental law and the obligations and responsibilities of states thereunder by allowing commercial mining activities to commence. We argue that allowing seabed mining in the Area at this juncture, when so much about the deep ocean remains unknown, would risk frustrating a host of measures, achievements, and progress to enhance marine environmental protection, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We begin with an overview of the ISA and its work to date, before discussing potential interactions between seabed mining and marine environmental law and policies, with a particular focus on the new ocean biodiversity agreement. We conclude by urging states to take cognizance of their overarching duty to protect and preserve the marine environment and ensure that all decisions taken with respect to seabed mining are consistent with their obligations and responsibilities under international law.

Publication Year
Publication Type
Academic Articles

Singh, P., & Jaeckel, A. (2024). Undermining by Mining? Deep Seabed Mining in Light of International Marine Environmental Law. AJIL unbound, 118, 72-77. doi:10.1017/aju.2024.8.

Staff involved