Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) what are the criteria used to assess the potential cost and benefit of supporting Singapore companies entering the deep seabed mining industry; (b) who are the stakeholders consulted in the decision-making process; and (c) what is the number of Singapore companies that are granted a licence under the Deep Seabed Mining Act and are involved in deep seabed mining.
Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) under what circumstances will companies be punished for contravening responsible deep sea mining practices under the Deep Seabed Mining Act 2015; and (b) to date, how many companies have been found guilty of offences under this Act.
Mr Gan Kim Yong: The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Implementation Agreement (IA) for Part XI of UNCLOS set out the legal framework and obligations for deep seabed mining and related activities in the areas of the seabed, ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), established under UNCLOS and IA, regulates all such activities.
Singapore is a member of the ISA Council, which is developing the rules, regulations and procedures (RRPs) for exploitation activities, to ensure that any such activity, if and when permitted, is done without harming the marine environment. We fully support the adoption of robust, clear and comprehensive RRPs by the Council before any exploitation activity is authorised to commence. Singapore is firmly committed to safeguarding the health of the ocean and will ensure that any activities carried out by our companies are consistent with international laws, including the RRPs, adopted by the ISA.
Through a notification which took effect on July 2021, the Republic of Nauru requested that the ISA finalise the RRPs within two years (i.e. by July 2023) as provided for under UNCLOS and the IA. As a responsible member of the ISA Council, Singapore will participate actively, and contribute to the development and adoption of the RRPs.
The company, Ocean Mineral Singapore Pte Ltd (OMS), was granted an exploration licence under the Deep Seabed Mining Act 2015 and it has signed an exploration contract with ISA, with Singapore as the Sponsoring State. This contract was awarded after the ISA was satisfied that OMS met its qualification criteria, including having adequate financial and technical capabilities to fulfil its environmental and other obligations.
Following the exploration contract, OMS collaborated with the Keppel-NUS Corporate Laboratory on two expedition trips in 2015 and 2020 to conduct an environmental baseline study of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean. Through these expeditions, OMS has collected and analysed biological, geological, and oceanographic data, which has been published in research papers and reported to the ISA.
OMS’s annual reports are reviewed by ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) and these cover various aspects of the company’s expedition trips which are found to be satisfactory and consistent with regulations and guidelines that govern exploration. These findings, together with other environmental studies that are being conducted, contribute to global knowledge on biodiversity and environmental baselines in the CCZ.
Under the terms of the licence granted by Singapore under the Deep Seabed Mining Act 2015, a Singapore company must comply with the terms and conditions of the ISA contract, applicable ISA regulations, and UNCLOS. If a Singapore company fails to do so, the Minister for Trade and Industry has the power to issue directions to ensure compliance, impose penalties, and even terminate the licence. At present, no company or individual has been found guilty of offences under this Act.
Ministry of Trade and Industry
2 August 2022