The Nauru Government’s two-year rule for deep sea mining has concerned environmental groups, but lawyers say what happens next is very unclear.

A small Pacific country’s push to formalise deep sea mining regulations has sparked concern from environmental groups, but lawyers say what happens next is very unclear.

Last week, the Nauru Government wrote to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), giving notice of plans to lodge an application for mining international waters.

In doing so, the Pacific nation triggered a so-called two-year rule, which means the ISA has to consider and conditionally approve a mining contract within two years.

The move has sparked concern among many scientists and environmental groups, who say that won’t leave enough time to develop robust rules and regulations for deep sea mining.

The controversial practice involves extracting small lumps of rock that contain precious metals from the deep ocean floor, hundreds of metres underwater.

Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Jessica Desmond said not enough was known about deep sea mining.

‘We’re talking about a new extractive industry, mining some of the most biodiverse places on the planet,” 

Desmond said the biggest concern was that a flurry of mining applications would be lodged, now the two-year rule had been triggered.

But Dr Aline Jaeckel, an expert in ocean mining law, said what the two-year rule would mean is still unclear.

“It hasn’t been used before and it hasn’t been interpreted by a court, Dr Jaeckel said.

“Just because the rule has been triggered, does not necessarily mean that we will see the regulations being adopted within two years.

“And it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will see an exploitation contract being approved.”

In a statement, the Nauru Government said the ISA had been developing regulations since 2014 and the time had come to finalise the rules for the benefit of stakeholders and the international community.

It also said that no removal of nodules will take place until “rigorous” environmental impact studies are completed and evaluated and that if the research shows the risks outweigh the benefits, the ISA can decide that the project shouldn’t go ahead.

This story was produced by Marian Faa, published at ABC on 1 July 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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