Klaas Willaert

Seabed mining within national jurisdiction: an assessment of the relevant legislation of the Cook Islands


Beyond the boundaries of national jurisdiction, the seabed and its mineral resources are governed by a comprehensive international regime, which determines by whom and under what conditions these natural resources can be exploited. However, the same mineral resources that deep sea mining actors are keen to exploit in the Area, are also available within zones falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of coastal states. So even if strict rules and precise standards would be enforced with regard to seabed mining operations in the Area, similar activities within a coastal state’s national jurisdiction remain unchecked by international law. Therefore, the question can be raised whether this might lead to substandard exploitation of the minerals of the seabed without adequate supervision? This article tests this assumption in a detailed case study of the relevant legislation of the Cook Islands, comprising the 2017 Marae Moana Act and the 2019 Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Act. Following a concise analysis of the competences of coastal states on their continental shelf, the domestic laws of the Cook Islands are critically compared with the international legal framework governing the Area, to assess whether they contain equivalent rules, mechanisms and safeguards.