The Republic of Nauru sets Deadline for Ocean Mining Rules

Reuters reports that Nauru, an island nation in the Pacific, recently notified the International Seabed Authority (ISA) of their request to finalize decisions regarding the rules and regulations set to govern the ocean mining industry. The deadline is set at two years; the two-year rule allows for a mining plan to be approved after two years under whatever rules are in place at that time.

Nauru is a sponsoring state for Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Metals Company, and organization that hopes to start mining in 2024. The end goal is to extract cobalt, copper, nickel, and manganese—all key battery materials—from the ocean floor at depths of 2.5-4 miles in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the North Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Mexico. The Metals Company has agreements with Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati for CCZ exploration rights.

Environmental groups, some of which have called for a complete ban on activity given the limited knowledge about the associated environmental impacts, argue that the so-called Mining Code is far from ready and that such regulations should not be set prematurely without proper and thorough scientific analysis.

Besides the environmental concerns, there are also legal questions. One of the more pressing relates to the U.N.’s decree that resources found in international waters be defined as the common heritage of mankind, so benefits should be shared among all countries, not just nations sponsoring mining firms.

In an official statement, the ISA acknowledged Nauru's letter and said it intended to resume work on the mining regulations this year, after progress was hampered in 2020 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.