Dispute Settlement Relating to Deep Seabed Mining: A Participant's Perspective

By Sun, Linlin | Melbourne Journal of International Law, June 2017 | Go to article overview

Dispute Settlement Relating to Deep Seabed Mining: A Participant's Perspective


Sun, Linlin, Melbourne Journal of International Law


This paper addresses the question of what mechanisms are available for settlement of disputes relating to deep seabed mining in different scenarios. The question is dealt with from a participant's perspective. Upon examination, it is found that although the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has been established to have compulsory jurisdiction over disputes arising out of deep seabed mining activities, gaps are identified in the current legal framework. Consequently, it is suggested that an administrative review mechanism and a complaint mechanism could be established within the International Seabed Authority ('ISA') to fill in these gaps. Lastly, policy advice is given to the three kinds of participants in the deep seabed mining regime: the contractor, the ISA and the sponsoring state.

                           CONTENTS

I          Introduetion: The Development of Deep Seabed Mining       72
II         Legal Framework for Settlement of Disputes                75
III        Examination ofthe Dispute Settlement Mechanisms from a
           Participant's Perspective                                 78
             A    From the Perspective ofthe Contraetor              78
                      1    Mechanisms for Settlement of Disputes
                           over the Approval of Plans of Work in
                           the Form of Contracts                     78
                      2    Mechanisms for Settlement of Disputes
                           over the Implementation of Contracts      80
                      3    Mechanisms for Settlement of Disputes
                           concerning the Implementation of a
                           Sponsoring Agreement or the Revocation
                           of a Certificate of Sponsorship           82
                      4    Mechanisms for Settlement of Disputes
                           between Contractors                       83
                      5    Mechanisms for Settlement of Disputes
                           regarding Interference between a
                           Contractor and Other Users of the Area
                           or the High Seas                          83
                      6    Mechanisms for Settlement of Disputes
                           over the Violation of Rights  or
                           Interests of a Coastal State              84

             B    From the Perspective of the rSA                    86
                      1    Establishment of an Administrative
                           Review Mechanism and a Complaint
                           Mechanism                                 86
                      2    Invocation of the Liability of the
                           ISA                                       88

             C    From the Perspective ofthe Sponsoring State        89
                      1    The Sponsoring State as a Third Party
                           to Existing Proceedings                   89
                      2    Invocation of the Liability of the
                           Sponsoring State                          90
IV         Conclusion and Policy Advice                              93

I INTRODUCTION: THE DEVELOPMENT OF DEEP SEABED MINING

It was in 1873, during the HMS Challenger Expedition (1873-76), that polymetallic nodules were first discovered on the seafloor. (1) Yet, it was not until the 1960s that the economic value of those nodules became an issue of international interest. (2) Soon, exploration for and exploitation of the mineral resources on the seabed--ie deep seabed mining ('DSM')--appeared as a topic on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. From 1967, under the auspices of the UN, negotiations began for a DSM legal regime. The final outcome of the long-lasting negotiations was pt XI of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ('Convention'). (3) However, owing to divergent attitudes towards the content of pt XI of the Convention, the Convention did not enter into force until pt XI was amended by the 1994 Implementation Agreement. …

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