New Report: Deep sea mining high risk

Feature story - July 7, 2013
The extinction of unique deep sea species and other irreversible environmental damage to our oceans are a likely result of an emerging trend to exploit seabed minerals, Greenpeace International warned today.

A new report from Greenpeace International has found that the potential impact of deep sea mining is not properly understood. Mining could devastate biodiversity hotspots and endanger deep sea organisms as sediment waste and pollution from toxic heavy metals are discharged. With only 3 per cent of the world’s oceans and less than 1 per cent of the high seas are protected, marine ecosystems are among the most environmentally vulnerable places on Earth.

"Deep seabed mining is yet another serious threat to already stressed ocean life and the future livelihoods and wellbeing of coastal communities," said Charles Latimer, Greenpeace Canada oceans campaigner. "We’ve seen what mining has done to terrestrial landscapes and we cannot afford this destruction of seafloor habitats."

Copper, manganese, cobalt and rare earth metals are found in or on the seabed and a growing number of governments and companies are developing deep seabed mining ventures for mineral exploration. Canada, Japan, South Korea, China and the UK are just some of the countries that have been granted contracts by the International Seabed Authority. Canadian company Nautilus Minerals Inc. is among those leading this mad dash to tear up the seafloor for minerals buried in the deep

"The Canadian government needs to show leadership on ocean protection here and internationally, as home-grown companies seek mining opportunities in other corners of the world," added Latimer." Canada must join other governments to immediately establish a global network of marine reserves to safeguard marine life against current and future threats.”

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Greenpeace demands that no seabed mining in coastal zones, on continental shelves or in areas beyond national jurisdiction, takes place unless the impacts from mining are addressed and marine habitats protected. Greenpeace is also calling for end-user industries to invest in designing products that use seabed minerals more efficiently, while taking responsibility for reusing and recycling initiatives.

Endorsing Greenpeace International’s report, Oxford University Conservation Biology Professor Alex Rogers said: "The advent of deep sea mining represents the advent of a new stressor on the oceans. The destruction caused by deep sea fishing on the high seas has demonstrated what uncontrolled use of the global commons can lead to. There is an urgent need to establish a framework for conservation of the deep sea through the establishment of a network of marine protected areas and new international standards for environmental impact assessments that apply to all sectors of industry exploiting ocean resources."

Greenpeace is asking supporters to help protect our oceans by adding their names to a petition for a global network of 40% marine reserves. Sign our petition here.  

The 19th session of the International Seabed Authority will be held in Jamaica from July 15-26th, where it will consider more applications for seabed mining.