Germany and Deep Sea Mining

Dr. Suzette V. Suarez, Solicitor, Lebuhn & Puchta, Hamburg, 26 March 2015

Today, I gave a presentation on Germany and Deep Sea before the members of the Fontaney Rotary Club of Hamburg. The opportunity was through the kind invitation of Incoming President of the Club, Dr. Heinrich-Werner Goltz, Senior Partner at Lebuhn & Puchta.

The title of my presentation in German was „Die Bedeutung des Tiefseebergbaus für Deutschland unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen.“(Die Bedeutung des Tiefseebergbau_SVS)

For the presentation, I covered four areas. First, I gave an overview of deep sea mining and spoke of the three types of deep sea minerals that are considered for deep sea mining. These are manganese nodules, seafloor massive sulfides and cobalt crusts. Manganese nodules contain high grade manganese,

The second part of the presentation focused on the reasons behind Germany´s interest on deep sea mining. Germany is a country that imports 100% of its needs for raw metals. Germany´s reliance on imported raw metals is therefore the main motivation behind the German Government´s long-term policy and initiatives with respect to deep sea mining. The other reason for Germany´s interest is because the emerging deep sea mining industry serves as a new market for German offshore, special shipyards and maritime suppliers companies.

The third part looked at the legal and regulatory framework governing deep sea mining. The fundamental law regulating the industry is the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Deep sea mining takes place either on the continental shelf of a coastal State or in the international seabed area. The coastal State has exclusive sovereign rights to the non-living resources (minerals, energy) therein. The coastal State therefore exercises jurisdiction and control over the seabed mining activities on its continental shelf. The international seabed area or the Area, on the other hand, is the common heritage of mankind. No State, entity or individual can lay claim to the Area. Deep sea mining activities in the Area shall be regulated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Any financial or economic benefits from the Area shall be provided by the ISA on an equitable basis.

Finally, I covered the activities of the German Government and some German companies in deep sea mining. I emphasized that Germany´s main activities occur in the International Seabed Area. Germany is considered to be one of the leading States in matters of deep sea mining in the Area. It currently holds a license (in the form of a contract) from the ISA to explore for manganese nodules in Clipperton-Clarion Fracture Zone area from 2006 to 2021. Its application for approval of a work plan to explore for seafloor massive sulfides has in the meantime been approved by the ISA´s Legal and Technical Commission in July 2014. The work plan is now before the ISA Council.

As there are no known deep sea minerals on Germany continental shelf, it´s activities are concentrated on the continental shelves of other coastal States. In my presentation, I related the initial substantial involvement of the German company, Harran and Partner in the Solwara 1 project of Nautilus Minerals off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The two companies entered into a joint venture that would have owned the production vessel for the project. However, due to the financial crisis in Europe and the crisis in the shipping industry, funding for the project did not materialize, which eventually forced Harran and Partner to bow out of the project. The production vessel for Solwara 1 is currently under construction in a Chinese shipyard. A German company, the Norddeutsche Seekabelwerke designed and provided for the umbilical cables needed for the winches of all three seafloor mining equipments. The winches will be integrated onto the production vessel.

My power point presentation is available here:

Die Bedeutung des Tiefseebergbau_SVS


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