The number of governments opposing deep sea mining has multiplied in the past two weeks, with Pacific, Latin American and European states calling for a precautionary pause, moratorium or a complete ban on deep sea mining during a meeting that concluded on Friday at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston, Jamaica. The global Greenpeace network has urged states opposed to the start of deep sea mining to work together in the coming months and find legal ways to ensure that this destructive industry is not allowed to start.
Among the ISA Council’s 36 member states, France has called for a ban, while Germany, Spain, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Chile, Panama, Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia have demanded a “precautionary pause” or a moratorium. France and Germany both sponsor mineral exploration contracts in the deep sea, making their new statements particularly significant.
Arlo Hemphill, Greenpeace USA campaigner on deep sea mining who attended the meetings, said: “We are seeing a shift in the way the world views deep sea mining. Countries are increasingly acknowledging the importance of the critical services the oceans provide to humankind and our responsibility to protect it for the benefit of all. It is encouraging to see that more states are refusing to be a part of the ill conceived rush to mine the deep sea. But these fragile ocean ecosystems are not yet off limits to exploitation. We call on the Governments that have voiced their opposition to deep sea mining to move with urgency over the next few months to turn their words into actions to stop deep sea mining.”
Negotiations over whether to allow the industry to start deep sea mining as early as July 2023, will continue in March and July next year. Scientists have warned that deep sea mining may lead to irreversible biodiversity loss, disturbance of one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, and damage to fragile ocean ecosystems, which provides benefits such as medicines and fisheries.
Joey Tau, from the Pacific Network on Globalization, said: “Pacific NGO groups have been calling for a global ban on deep sea mining since 2012, and we welcome the recent calls by ISA member States calling for precautionary pause, moratorium and ban. We must move beyond the often narrow interpretation of stewardship of earth’s resources that has tended to focus on economic driven imperatives. As we face multiple crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, we must instead prioritize the health and wellbeing of our ocean and the life sustaining services it provides us – not just for today, but for future generations. We hope that the global community will share in our vision of common stewardship and responsibility for our oceans and support the growing calls for a stop to the launch of commercial deep-sea mining.”
The urgency to find legal ways to stop deep sea mining remains, as The Metals Company (TMC) a leading proponent of deep sea mining, is currently concluding mining tests in the Pacific and intends to apply for a license to start commercial mining in 2023. The ISA has continued to attract criticism for its lack of transparency after it fast-tracked the greenlighting of TMC’s trial, under a non-transparent process that has been questioned by scientists .
At the just concluded meeting, a growing number of countries stated that they are against authorizing TMC’s mining operations in the absence of regulations, refusing the pressure imposed by the 2-year loophole triggered by Nauru last year.
James Hita, Greenpeace Aotearoa seabed mining campaigner, said: “As The Metals Company is out in the Pacific with plundering machines and mining vessels, a growing number of governments are acknowledging the threat of deep sea mining and choosing the protection of biodiversity, carbon sinks and Pacific people’s way of life over deep sea mining. The New Zealand Government’s recent support for a conditional moratorium backed by robust science is a welcome development that we hope other countries will emulate in the next few months.”
Civil society in Jamaica once again showed its opposition to deep sea mining with a protest by the Jamaican Climate Change Youth Council right outside the ISA on Thursday, November 10.
Political concern over deep sea mining follows public support for a moratorium by leading technology and EV companies Rivian, Renault, BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo Group, Scandia, Google, and Samsung SDI, raising the question of whether a market for these minerals will exist at all. The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative has urged investors to avoid the industry.
 In a letter addressed to the ISA Legal and Technical Commission, the ISA Secretariat and the permanent mission of Nauru to the UN, the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), a global network of experts, expressed its concerns over the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission recommendation on the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by Nauru Ocean Resources Inc.(NORI),a subsidiary of TMC, to conduct mining tests in the Pacific Ocean.