The International Seabed Authority (ISA) negotiations have just ended with deep sea mining companies failing to get an immediate green light to start plundering the oceans. Opposition to deep sea mining within the ISA is mounting, with more than 20 governments now calling for a pause.
“The deep sea mining industry was gearing up to set loose its mechanical mining robots on the ocean floor, but they have seriously underestimated the vitality of the movement to protect the oceans from this dangerous new industry,” says Greenpeace Aotearoa campaigner James Hita.
“The movement to protect the ocean from deep-sea mining has grown so strong now that even in the historically pro-mining stronghold of the ISA, it’s becoming clear that business as usual is over.
“It’s clear that most governments do not want their legacy to be green-lighting more ocean destruction, and it’s clear that people all over the world want to stop deep sea mining before it starts,” says Hita.
The decisions adopted by the ISA Council on 21 July effectively mean that a majority of countries — including New Zealand, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Vanuatu, Germany and Switzerland — did not yield to pressure from the industry — supported by nations such as Norway, Nauru and Mexico — to fast-track rules for deep sea mining. Industry frontrunner The Metals Company saw its share price plummet as markets reacted to the news. However, the ISA still failed to close a legal loophole for companies to start mining next year.
The New Zealand government has backed a “conditional moratorium” on seabed mining in international waters, and Greenpeace Aotearoa applauded the move but urged them to take an even stronger position. Over 30,000 people have signed a petition calling on the New Zealand Government to support a global ban on deep sea mining.
At the ISA Assembly this week, negotiations were fraught as pro-mining nations reacted by attempting to silence the growing resistance to deep sea mining in the very place it’s supposed to be up for negotiation: As of Friday morning, China was still opposing a proposal from Latin American, Pacific and European governments to make space for debate. Such attempts at restricting opposition to deep sea mining went beyond the negotiating table, as the ISA Secretariat, frequently accused of being too close to the industry, restricted journalists and clamped down on peaceful protest during the meetings.
“Investors looking at what happened in the past week will see a desperate industry trying to maintain an illusion that it has a future by blocking dissent. Over the course of this meeting, it became clear that pressing ahead to mine the deep sea in the middle of a climate crisis is not only reckless but politically toxic. The world is fighting back against deep sea mining. There’s still a big fight ahead, but the movement gets stronger by the day,” Hita continued.
The world is waking up to the significance of the threat from deep sea mining. The calls of Indigenous Peoples are being joined by people across the world: 37 financial institutions, over 750 scientists and the fishing industry have also called for a halt.
Joey Tau, of the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) based in Suva, Fiji said: “In the Pacific, the ocean is dear to us. It informs our lives and who we are as a people. The spectre of deep-sea mining raises many concerns that remind us of the legacies our region has felt from other colonial extractive industries and the barbarous nuclear testing era. We call on world leaders to be better stewards of our ocean by joining the call for a moratorium.”
Greenpeace believes that the way to stop the deep sea mining industry is through a moratorium that focuses on putting protection in place and that requires more governments to speak up to safeguard the ocean.
It’s time for New Zealand to take a stand. Join our call on the New Zealand government to back a global moratorium on seabed mining.