J Durden, LE Lallier, K Murphy, A Jaeckel, K Gjerde, D Jones, ‘Environmental Impact Assessment Process for Deep-sea Mining in ‘the Area’’ 87 Marine Policy 194–202 (2018) (open access)
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is key to the robust environmental management of industrial projects; it is used to anticipate, assess and reduce environmental and social risks of a project. It is instrumental in project planning and execution, and often required for financing and regulatory approval to be granted. The International Seabed Authority currently requires an EIA for deep-sea mining (DSM) in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the Area), but the existing regulations present only a portion of a robust EIA process. This article presents an ideal EIA process for DSM, drawing upon the application of EIA from allied industries. It contains screening, scoping and assessment phases, along with the development of an environmental management plan. It also includes external review by experts, stakeholder consultation, and regulatory review. Lessons learned from application of EIA elsewhere are discussed in relation to DSM, including the integration of EIA into UK domestic law, and the reception of EIAs prepared for seabed ore extraction in the Exclusive Economic Zones of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Finally, four main challenges of implementing the EIA process to DSM in the Area are presented: 1) EIA process for DSM needs to incorporate mechanisms to address uncertainty; 2) detailed requirements for the EIA process phases should be made clear; 3) mechanisms are needed to ensure that the EIA influences decision making; and, 4) the EIA process requires substantial input and involvement from the regulator.