The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea declares the seabed beyond national jurisdiction and its mineral resources as the “common heritage of mankind” (CHM). This article examines the operationalisation of the CHM principle in the international seabed mining regime, with focus placed on the sharing of benefits derived from mining. The article begins by providing an overview of the CHM principle, before examining four modalities provided for in the Convention, both institutional and substantial, and their role in giving effect to the CHM principle: (1) financial benefits; (2) the “Enterprise”; (3) the parallel system of reserved areas; and, (4) marine scientific research. Finally, overarching issues are discussed and some suggestions on ways forward are presented. The article considers that the deep seabed mining regime is not yet ready to effectively share the benefits derived from the common heritage of mankind. In particular, the future of the Enterprise is uncertain and changes to the so-called parallel system that affect the CHM have received minimal discussion. Moreover, a lack of publicly available research data related to seabed mining is hindering current benefits for humankind. However, work is underway at the International Seabed Authority to establish rules and policies with respect to the sharing of financial benefits. While the CHM principle remains largely untested, approaches that are transparent, inclusive, accountable, and equitable are more likely to be successful.
- common heritage of mankind
- Deep seabed mining
- International Seabed Authority