A critical component of the development of international rules governing the exploitation of deep seabed minerals is ensuring that, in the event of harm to the environment, persons and property, there are appropriate rules and procedures ensuring that adequate and prompt compensation be paid to address those losses. The unique features of the deep seabed mining regime, including the complicated mix of state and non-state entities involved in the activities, and the status of the seabed area beyond national jurisdiction (“the Area”) as — to use the language of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — the “common heritage of mankind,” raise new and complicated legal issues.

This paper provides an overview and synthesis of the work of the Legal Working Group on Liability for Environmental Harm from Activities in the Area (LWG), an experts’ group convened to identify and analyze legal issues that will need to be addressed in preparation of sector-specific liability rules for deep seabed mining. The LWG’s work, which will be published in a series of separate CIGI papers in 2018, examines a range of substantive and procedural issues that will need to be addressed as part of the development of liability rules for deep seabed mining. 

Part of Series

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.