20th July 2011, Jamaica: The Council of the International Seabed Authority today approved applications for seabed exploration work-plans from Nauru, Tonga, China and Russia. The applications were recommended for Council's approval by the Legal and Technical Commission of the Authority. Fiji and the Pacific Island Countries are represented on the Legal and Technical Commission by Dr Russell Howorth, the Director of SPC's Suva-based Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC).
In contrast with the Chinese and Russian applications, the Nauruan and Tongan applications faced extended opposition from a number of prominent countries. The Nauruan application was submitted by Nauru Oceanic Resources Inc, and the Tongan by Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd. Both applications related to work plans for exploration for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the mid-east Pacific Ocean.
Fiji is an elected member of the ISA's Council and its delegate, Ambassador Peter Thomson spoke strongly in support of the Nauruan and Tongan applications. He thanked them for their applications and the advancement the approvals represented in the work of the Authority. He pointed out that Pacific Island Countries were at the forefront of international seabed matters, with Fiji having been the first signatory of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He said that like other Pacific Island Countries, Fiji had invested much time and resource to responsible consideration of seabed mining.
Ambassador Thomson commended Nauru for being the country with the foresight to propose to the Authority last year that it request the Seabed Disputes Chamber in Hamburg for an advisory opinion on the responsibilities and obligations of State Parties in relation to deep sea mining. Fiji had presented a statement to the Chamber during its hearing in Hamburg in September 2010. He reminded the Council that while the Chamber's advisory opinion had now been unanimously welcomed by the ISA's Council, last year many Council members had tried hard to block the Nauruan proposal.
In thanking the four countries for their applications, Ambassador Thomson said their approval represented a significant advancement in the work of the Authority. The Nauruan and Tongan approvals are the first time the Council has granted approval to developing countries to have access to prospecting the seabed areas reserved for their use under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea.
(Photo caption: ISA Secretary-General Nii Odunton and Ambassador Thomson of Fiji in Jamaica today).
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation P. O. Box 2220 Government Buildings Suva, Fiji