21 April 2022

Deep Sea Mining: Time for Indonesia to Engage in Negotiations Outside Jurisdiction


The mass production of electric vehicles will create a demand for seabed minerals that is more massive than before. However, the sustainability of Indonesia’s marine ecosystems must be maintained. Indonesia must play a role in discussions outside its jurisdiction.

Since 1995, “Indonesia has gradually disappeared from the chair of leadership of international organizations and the development of international law, including those related to deep sea mining.”

So wrote Damos Dumoli Agusman in the results of a study “The Dynamic Development on Indonesia’s Attitude Toward International Law” in 2015. This phenomenon, he further wrote, “was caused by the 1998 reforms which made the government focus on domestic rather than international issues.”

In the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (KESDM) for 2020 – 2024, the government determines the strengthening of smelter development as one of the priorities. Instead of utilizing existing smelters or exploration on the continental shelf, the government has chosen to build new ones.

At the same time, the world is facing an increasing demand for electric vehicles. The source of electricity can actually be sought through exploration of deep sea mines rather than coalfired power plants.

In the webinar “Deep Sea Mineral Exploration in Indonesia: Potential, Challenges, Policy and Technology”, Associate Researcher of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Hananto Kurnio said “the government will lose momentum if it is slow to respond to this economic opportunity.”

The arguments supporting the idea of deep seabed mining put forward by several speakers were: the importance of finding new mineral reserves for future generations amidst continuously declining deposits.

Deep sea mining is a relatively new mineral extraction activity introduced in the world. Done on the ocean floor, this mining location is usually at a depth of 1,400–3,700 meters below sea level.

Moch. Faisal Karim and Willy Dwira Yudha in the study “Poliheuristic Theory and Indonesia’s Absence in Deep-Sea Mining” wrote, Indonesia was absent from negotiations regarding deepsea mineral mining both territorially and outside national jurisdiction.

Both believed that the absence was based on a conscious decision made by government elites to avoid excessive political costs, decreased public support and decreased confidence in President Joko Widodo.

They further wrote, the Indonesian government consciously avoided working on deep-seabed mining projects. This is because one project requires at least IDR 175 trillion (equivalent to USD 12.1 billion).

The Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) assesses that the government needs to be involved in the preparation of deep sea mining instruments outside the framework of national jurisdiction. In addition to fighting for national interests, involvement is also beneficial to demonstrate Indonesia’s leadership in international maritime law forums.

Indonesia’s participation is also needed to protect marine biodiversity in the midst of mining activities. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) researchers found two thirds of the hundreds of species of molluscs – such as sea snails and shellfish – are at risk of extinction due to deep-sea mining.


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