Alternative liability models in deep sea mining and their implications for global benefit sharing under the common heritage of mankind principle

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


As the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is currently developing new regulations for the forthcoming commercial exploitation of hard deep sea minerals, this thesis investigates how liability can be constructed to protect the international seabed ‘Area’ beyond national jurisdiction, and its non-living resources that are the ‘common heritage of mankind’ (CHM). Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the rights in these resources belong to no state but are shared by all of mankind. According to the dominant interpretation, this entails that mankind as a whole has a right to the ecological as well economic benefits from these resources, which must be shared equitably between current and future generations. Economic benefit sharing primarily in the form of global financial redistribution under UNCLOS thereby serves to compensate for the hazardous and permanent removal of these life-sustaining resources. Rules on benefit sharing also state that there should be a special consideration for disadvantaged states to compensate for past exploitation of former colonies, which created global inequality.

This thesis argues that what is currently missing from contemporary approaches to discussion about deep sea mining is an explicit account of how alternative responsibility and liability models relate to the CHM principle, and how they directly or indirectly will affect models and rates of global redistribution—which is to make this industry worthwhile for mankind beyond individual contractors. Providing such an account in Part II (Comments in relation to the forthcoming regulations) and III (Conclusion), whilst also proposing concrete solutions for remaining liability gaps, are the most original contributions of this thesis. The point of this scrutiny is to prevent that one hand takes back what the other gives by lowering either environmental safety standards or royalty rates. It is throughout argued that both aspects must be jointly considered against a justifying aim, which should be to create a net-benefit for mankind.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Law
  • D'Aspremont, Jean, Supervisor
  • Scobbie, Iain, Supervisor
Award date11 Aug 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022


  • Marine Environmental Law
  • law of the sea
  • deep sea mining
  • marine industries
  • extractive industries
  • common heritage of mankind
  • international seabed authority
  • sponsoring state liability
  • contractor liability
  • liability


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