Options to Improve Transparency and Effectiveness in the Environmental Monitoring System for Polymetallic Nodule Mining in “the Area”
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This thesis examines institutional innovations required for development and application of a system for monitoring environmental impacts of mineral mining on the deep seabed and in the overlying ocean, beyond national jurisdictions of the continental shelf, termed “the Area”. The goal of this study is to recommend a monitoring system that is both effective and transparent. Since it was established in 1994, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) has developed environmental regulations and recommendations for the prospecting and exploration of seabed minerals in the Area. The ISA drafted tentative new regulations on deep seabed mineral mining in the Area in 2017. The new regulations will potentially enter into force within about two years pending revision and ratification. That scenario would enable commercial mining in the Area to commence at any time following the initial two year period. However, a large number of stakeholders and scientists are concerned that: 1) there could be significant harmful impacts of mining on deep seabed biodiversity and water column ecosystems, and 2) the processes and results of evaluating such impacts by ISA or their designates, may not be transparent to concerned stakeholders. An adaptive approach to effective monitoring of the entire process, at least initially, is required to assess and mitigate harmful changes from mining in the marine environment of the deep seabed. Innovative techniques of monitoring the extraction process should be considered seriously from the early stages of a regulation development in tandem with other environmentally oriented strategies instruments, such as publishing environmental impact assessments which, in turn, are dependent on documented monitoring efforts. A cooperative, transparent, and integrated monitoring system should be implemented at the outset of mining to identify and assess potentially harmful impacts and to inform future strategies that could minimize marine ecosystem degradation. Through examination of the ISA mining regulations, meeting reports and academic literature, this study found that the ISA monitoring system is currently lacking key elements of reporting compliance, a transparent review system, and information access system to all stakeholders. Six case studies of other international and national deep sea monitoring practices showed that the characteristics of this ISA monitoring plan is more similar to national monitoring in the Exclusive Economic Zones and that the ISA does not seek for regional and collaborative effectiveness in the environmental management of resources that constitute the "Common Heritage of Mankind" in open ocean/high seas portions of the global ocean (the Area). These more territorial characteristics indicate the ISA system may not be sufficiently flexible and adaptive to allow effective management of environmental changes in the international deep seabed and the overlying ocean. In this thesis, I propose 19 institutional, and 6 technological, recommendations to the ISA, as options to create an idealized monitoring system for deep seabed mining of nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Region of the Area. These recommendations are described in detail and are based on practical examinations from the current ISA rules and inspection of other deep sea monitoring practices, taking into account stakeholders' perspectives to design an approach that is as mutually acceptable to all parties as possible. Therefore, this study suggests that the ISA system potentially could gain better outcomes for the environmental management in the Area, however, they need to consider various options thoroughly before commencement of deep seabed. Key recommendations include to define baseline monitoring strategies with respect to spatial and temporal resolution, to implement collective monitoring and reporting by adjacent contractors, and to establish compliance review committees inside ISA.
- Marine affairs 
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