Legal Working Group on Liability for Environmental Harm from Activities in the Area

Conference Report

February 5, 2018

This research workshop was convened by the International Law Research Program of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), in conjunction with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the Commonwealth Secretariat. Experts in the law of the sea and international environmental law were invited to sit as a working group to consider issues of liability for environmental harm resulting from deep seabed mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the Area).

Participants brought a broad set of expertise in international law, maritime practices and seabed mining activities to provide for a balanced and informed discussion. The topics discussed included the current legal architecture for liability/responsibility under international law, including an update on the ISA mining code and existing domestic frameworks; operational factors that impact the interpretation of effective control and channelling of liability, sources of potential liability and the perspectives of both stakeholders and industry; legal and governance issues, such as the interpretation and application of the principle that the deep seabed is classified as the common heritage of mankind, the potential role of insurance for deep seabed mining activities and intersections with existing systems; and legal and policy constraints and opportunities relating to liability.

The working group will result in a collection of papers to be published by CIGI, which will look to support efforts currently under way at the ISA toward the development of requirements clarifying the obligations and liability of authorized actors conducting and/or overseeing deep seabed mining in the Area.

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