The environmental movement is celebrating the New Zealand Government’s decision to back a conditional global moratorium on deep sea mining as a win for the ocean and people power, saying it’s a vital step in protecting the ocean from the destructive deep sea mining industry.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta today announced the Government’s support for a conditional global moratorium on deep sea mining, until such a time that strong regulations, backed by robust science, were in place to protect the marine environment in international waters.

Greenpeace seabed mining campaigner, James Hita says “We applaud the strong and ambitious position taken by the New Zealand government today to stand up for ocean protection, reflecting the values of thousands of New Zealanders who join many of our Pacific neighbours and countless civil society groups in the call to press pause on deep sea mining.

“Deep sea mining is an impending threat to the ocean and the lives and livelihoods of those who depend on it. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to stop this destructive industry before it starts and to protect the ocean that connects and nourishes us.

“This announcement is a result of the joint effort by organisations like Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, ECO, Greenpeace Aotearoa, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and many other individuals. This is also thanks to the voices of all of the people who supported the calls we’ve been making for the New Zealand Government to take a strong international position. I’m proud to stand in solidarity with our collective in calling for the protection of the international waters of te Moananui-a-Kiwa,” says Hita.

Cindy Baxter, Chairperson of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining says: “It’s fantastic to see our Government recognise the huge environmental and scientific concerns over the potentially devastating impacts of deep sea mining in international waters, and support a moratorium. Given there are just as many concerns around seabed mining in our own waters, it’s logical that we ban it at home – so we reiterate our call on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to ban seabed mining in Aotearoa.”

Phil McCabe, Pacific Regional Lead for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition says: “We’ve long said that New Zealand has an international role to play on this issue given our domestic experience, where seabed mining has been shown to be environmentally, socially and legally unacceptable. This position provides a platform for this experience to be shared far and wide and this is urgently needed.”

Says Cath Wallace, for ECO, the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ: “The Government and Minister Mahuta should be congratulated for this decision. The International Seabed Mining Authority has been far too willing to press ahead and promote seabed mining despite the pressing need and obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to protect and preserve the marine environment. New Zealand is the hope of the Pacific and the hope of the Oceans.” 

Says Hita: “We hope that this policy shift is a signal that the New Zealand Government will also ban seabed mining in Aotearoa before the next election – protecting the waters of Aotearoa as well international waters.”

The moratorium announcement from the Government comes just days before the International Seabed Authority (ISA) resumes meetings in Jamaica to negotiate the rules and regulations that will govern deep sea mining, which if allowed to go ahead, could start as early as next year.

Test deep sea mining was approved by the ISA last month and began in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean. A move which caused shock amongst the international environmental protection movement. 

Deep sea mining is an emerging industry where minerals are mined at great depths from the seafloor, with the potential to damage ocean health and marine life.