07/04/15: eCOAST’s legal expert returns from an internship in Jamaica

For the last 2 months, our legal expert Laura Lallier has conducted "field work" in the frame of her doctoral research on the Law of the Sea. Laura was working at the International Seabed Authority, the autonomous international organisation overseeing the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources of the deep sea in international areas. The organisation operates under rules set by the United Nations and is based in Kingston, Jamaica. With the completion of her internship, we asked Laura about her experience and her research.


- What is your legal research about?
Laura: "My doctoral research focuses on the legal aspects associated with Deep Sea Mining in International Areas, an activity that is expected to become increasingly important in the future. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 provides a framework for seabed mining beyond national jurisdiction. The Convention solely provides general principles and global policy lines, and needs further development into more clear and effective rules before any type of operation can be authorized. In this context, the goal of my research is to identify regulatory needs to achieve environmentally-responsible seabed mining in international areas. Such regulation may be derived from and inspired by other branches of international and environmental law. I look for answers in these other legislations to investigate whether prevention and management mechanisms and procedures can be adapted and implemented in this particular framework. My conclusions will serve as recommendations to the regulator."


- Why did you visit the International Seabed Authority?
Laura: "The Authority was founded under the Convention on the Law of the Sea to regulate seabed mining in international areas and to oversee the exploitation of the mineral resources. Currently, a "Mining Code" is under development for which the Authority has already addressed the phases of "Prospection" and "Exploration". Although minerals are not yet exploited in the remote parts of the ocean, it is foreseen in a near future. Hence, the Authority is currently drafting the legislation on "Exploitation", which is what I assisted them with during my internship.
To come up with realistic and relevant answers to the remaining gaps and grey areas, I needed to go out there and work closely with them. I needed to experience how the Authority works: to meet the staff and find out where we stand on certain issues."


- How did your internship influence your research?
Laura: "It was transformative for my work. Reading about the structure and functioning of the Authority merely gives you a vague idea of how things work in practice. You need to see the system in action to truly understand what the issues are, and more importantly, how they can or might be tackled. Working there allowed me to deal with current issues that one would not necessarily be aware of outside of the organisation. I had the chance to dive into the struggles of drafting exploitation regulations, and was confronted with a number of aspects that I wouldn't have thought about, either because some of it is not yet public, or because you need to do it yourself to realise it.
I came back with a lot more awareness and knowledge, and a huge amount of inspiration; ideas and aspects that need further research and development. In other words, there are a lot of opportunities ahead and I am more prepared than ever."


- How does your work benefit society, private companies, and investors?
Laura: "Exploitation does not occur yet, however, it is only a matter of time. By the time exploitation becomes a reality, eCOAST will be ready to play its role in supporting the development of this new sector. Building on my expertise, we will be in a position to advise stakeholders and policy-makers on environmental issues. Combined with the scientific and environmental management competences of eCOAST associates, we will be able to assist with the assessment and evaluation of impacts, the drafting of management plans, the monitoring of activities, etc."


Laura's research is partly funded through the IWT Baekeland Mandate (#140250).




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