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THE REGULATION OF DEEP SEABED MINING: THE NEED FOR A NEW APPROACH

Date

1991-06

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Degree Level

Masters

Abstract

This thesis argues that international law has failed to address the unique jurisdictional and logistical problems associated with seabed mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Consequently, the deep seabed exists in a jurisdictional void. The seabed cannot remain unregulated. An estimated 24 billion tonnes of minerals lie on the ocean floor, and these resources will eventually be harvested. It is the task of the international community to formulate an effective regime to regulate the exploitation of seabed resources in an equitable and environmentally responsible manner. Initially this thesis discusses the historical reasons which caused the gap in international law to develop. The key conclusion drawn from this historical investigation is that the traditional law of the sea cannot be adapted to create an effective seabed regime. Therefore, a new approach must be adopted. In 1967, the concept of the Common Heritage of Mankind was introduced to the United Nations. This thesis contends that this concept, if articulated authentically, provides the necessary philosophical framework for an effective seabed regime. However, the concept is more important than the means by which an international agreement can be reached. If the concept can be accepted by the world community en masse it would represent a major breakthrough in global North-South relations. The concept aims to enfranchise developing countries politically and economically by giving them an effective role in the administration of areas beyond national jurisdiction and an equitable share of any proceeds gained from the exploitation of those areas. The Third United Nations Law of the Sea Convention attempted to articulate the concept. However, due to the ideological intransigence of both developed and developing countries the concept was poorly articulated and its aims were frustrated by an overly complex and bureaucratic regime. As a result, many Western nations passed domestic seabed legislation as an interim alternative to an international agreement. Such legislations were abject failures as they did not provide sufficient financial stability for investors and lacked effective environmental provisions. This thesis contends that domestic legislation is a medium unsuited to the task of effectively regulating seabed mining. Due to a lack of adequate research, the exact environmental impacts of seabed mining are relatively unknown. This thesis advocates the promotion of research into the probable environmental effects of seabed mining. An effective environmental management regime can only be formulated by reference to reliable and credible research on the possible impacts of seabed operations. Essentially, this thesis contends that an effective international seabed regime can be created by adhering to the basic tenets of the Common Heritage of Mankind concept. The international community must renew steps to implement this philosophy, using the lessons of the past as signposts.

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Degree

Master of Laws (LL.M.)

Department

Law

Program

Law

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