By passing its International Seabed Minerals Bill on 23 October 2015 the Government of Nauru becomes one of the few countries in the world to have an Act governing its engagement in seabed mineral activities undertaken within international waters known as ‘the Area’.
The Nauru Justice Department has been working closely with the Pacific Community (SPC) – European Union supported Deep Sea Minerals Project, seeking legal and technical advice and assistance in the lead up to the enactment of this Act.
The project provides advice and assistance to 15 Pacific Island governments, promoting the carrying out of seabed mineral activities in accordance with international law requirements, with particular attention to the protection of the marine environment and securing equitable financial arrangements for the benefit of the Pacific people.
“This new law established by Nauru is critical in the administration of its seabed minerals activities in the Area and is a great model for other Pacific Island states wishing to engage in the Area,” SPC’s Deep Sea Minerals Project Manager, Akuila Tawake said.
“Prior to engaging in any seabed activities, it is important that countries have regulations and terms governing their engagement to ensure whatever activities that are conducted are environmentally safe and generate proper financial returns that will be collected and managed responsibly,” Tawake added.
The International Seabed Minerals Act ensures that measures are taken for Nauru to exercise its effective control on contractors when conducting seabed mineral activities in the Area and at the same time adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
To effectively control contractors, the Act promotes good governance by establishing a Nauru Seabed Minerals Authority which will be responsible for monitoring and managing Nauru’s involvement with seabed mineral activities. Revenues generated will be vested into a ‘Seabed Minerals Fund’ established by the Act, which will be managed for the benefit of the Nauruans.
The Act recognises the seabed resources of the Area are the common heritage of mankind and therefore, prospective activities can only be conducted via sponsorship of a member state of the ISA, party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Accordingly, the Act provides that measures undertaken within Nauru’s control will be on the basis of the Rules of the ISA. The Act also acknowledges the ISA’s responsibility under the UNCLOS to process applications, to monitor activities and to adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of exploration and mining activities.
Nauru was the first Pacific Island state to express interest in engaging seabed minerals activities in the Area, which the Act provides for by allowing Nauru to either sponsor directly or in partnership with a body corporate (registered in Nauru) to apply to the ISA to conduct exploration activities.
Alongside Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati have also engaged in exploration activities in the Area.