Nauru’s trigger of the 2-year rule in deep-sea minerals exploitation

Catherine Blanchard responds on '2-year rule'


On 17 September, Catherine Blanchard published a post on the blog of the Norwegian Center for the Law of the Sea (The NCLOS blog), where she conducts a legal exploration of the meaning and impacts of the “2-year rule” in deep-sea minerals exploitation, a rule triggered by Nauru on 25 June 2021.

Nauru indeed requested the International Seabed Authority (ISA), whose mandate is to regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed, to complete within 2 years the regulations necessary to approve plans of work on deep seabed exploitation, which have been in development since 2011. Nauru claims that Nauru Ocean Resources Inc, an Nauruan entity sponsored by the Nauruan State, will soon be ready to submit plans of work for approval. This request was made under paragraph 15 of section 1 of the Annex to the Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Paragraph 15 stipulates that if a State party, which is ready to submit a plan of work for approval, requests the ISA to complete the elaboration of all relevant regulations for exploitation, the ISA must do so within two years of the request. If the regulations have not been elaborated within two years, the ISA shall provisionally approve the plan of work on the basis of whatever (draft) regulations in place at the time. It is the first time that this provision is triggered by a State party.

The blog post first highlights the regulatory and political background against which the Nauruan request is made, before analyzing different components of the 2-year rule. The post further discusses the potential links between the 2-year rule and obligations of sponsoring States. It is hoped that this post will contribute to the emerging reflection on the legal impact of the 2-year rule.