This paper examines the existing approaches taken in establishing the degree of fault required to impose liability for environmental harm in international law, with a specific focus on identifying the key considerations in establishing a standard of liability for deep seabed mining activities. The paper considers the standard of liability for state behaviour under the law of state responsibility and on operators through international legal regimes on civil liability, as well as detailing the use of liability exceptions and liability caps across various regimes.

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The Liability Issues for Deep Seabed Mining project was developed by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Secretariat of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to assist in clarifying legal issues of responsibility and liability underpinning the development of exploitation regulations for the deep seabed. CIGI, in collaboration with the ISA Secretariat and the Commonwealth Secretariat, in 2017, invited leading legal experts to form the Legal Working Group on Liability for Environmental Harm from Activities in the Area (LWG) to discuss liability related to environmental damage, with the goal of providing the Legal and Technical Commission, as well as members of the ISA with an in-depth examination of potential legal issues and avenues.
  • Neil Craik is a CIGI senior fellow. He is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo where he teaches and researches in the fields of international and Canadian environmental law.