Native Hawaiian Environmental Activists and Greenpeace USA Protest for Ban on Deep Sea Mining

December 14, 2023

Today, Kānaka ’Ōiwi (Native Hawaiians) and Greenpeace USA peacefully protested Hidden Gem, a massive deep-sea mining vessel entering Hawaiian waters. The ocean-protectors “strongly oppose #DeepSeaMining and call to recognize the importance of preserving the deep sea.”

© Marco Garcia / Greenpeace

Sand Island, Hawaii (December 14, 2023)– Today, Kānaka ‘Ōiwi (Native Hawaiians) and Greenpeace USA peacefully protested against the arrival of Hidden Gem, one of the world’s largest deep-sea mining vessels, as it entered Hawaiian waters off of Honolulu. Operated by Allseas and commissioned by Canadian miner The Metals Company (TMC), the ship is believed to be carrying over 3,000 tons of potentially radioactive polymetallic nodules extracted during a deep sea mining trial operation conducted in waters southeast of Hawaiʻi between September and November 2022.

The activists, who were in traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoes and other small vessels, raised banners bearing the slogan “A’Ole (No) Deep Sea Mining,” while others on shore at Sand Island voiced their resolute opposition to the blind destruction of fragile, pristine deep sea environments and the broader, interconnected ocean systems. The rally was organized by Andre Perez, a long-time advocate for environmental protection in Hawaiʻi, and the Hawaiʻi Unity and Liberation Institute (HULI).

Solomon “Uncle Sol” Pili Kahoʻohalahala, a native Hawaiian Elder of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Advisory Council and Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, said: “The overthrow of the sovereign Hawaiian Kingdom has removed our Native Hawaiian voices from the international arena in which key decisions about our planet are being made, including decisions about deep sea mining, which we adamantly oppose. With the proximity of Hawaii to the proposed mining zones, it would be foolhardy to be concerned with only what exists on our side of the boundary.”

Deep sea mining involves extracting metals and minerals from the deep seabed. The International Seabed Authority oversees the regulation of this industry and is responsible for protecting the deep sea as the common heritage of humanity. The Authority has granted 31 deep sea mining exploration contracts so far, covering a total of over 1.5 million km2 of the world’s seabed-an area four times the size of Germany. Seventeen of these contracts cover exploration in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which lies between Hawaii and Mexico, placing many Pacific Island communities at the forefront of this harmful industry.

Scientists have warned of the devastating effects of deep sea mining on the environment. If it is allowed to start, vast areas of the ocean floor will be stripped bare, which will destroy habitats and damage unique ecosystems beyond repair. The process could also disrupt carbon cycles, and the associated noise and pollution, including toxic particles dumped in shallower waters, could adversely affect marine life throughout the water column. This includes tuna fisheries, which are an essential source of food for many communities.

Kahoʻohalahala continued:  “Our Moananuiākua, the broad seas that embrace our islands, hold deep cultural significance to Kānaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiians). The ocean is our place of origin, our source of life, and the body form of our god, Kanaloa. It feeds us both physically and spiritually. We have a kuleana (responsibility and purview) to care for its well-being and the well-being of all the life it holds. We strongly oppose any form of deep-sea mining in these waters and call on the decision-makers to recognize the importance of preserving the deep sea and to consider the long-term consequences of their actions.”

In March, Kahoʻohalahala, who now sits on the ISA’s working group on cultural heritage, and fellow Indigenous activist Hinano Murphy delivered a petition to the ISA with over 1,000 signatories from 34 countries and 56 Indigenous groups calling for a total ban on the industry.

In a letter to Pieter Heerema, the Chief Executive Officer of Allseas, and Gerard Barron, Executive Chairman and CEO of TMC, Kahoʻohalahala said:  “We do not welcome the industry you represent or the technology you carry that presents such a clear and present danger to our values and way of life. We cannot communicate a clearer message to you – Deep sea mining is not welcomed in Hawai’i.

TMC, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI), used an obscure and controversial legal loophole to set an ultimatum for governments to allow deep-sea mining to start by July 9 this year. Their gambit failed. Support for a moratorium, pause, or ban on the industry continues to grow and now includes 24 countries, including Mexico and several Pacific Island Nations, Pacific Indigenous communities, over 800 scientists, civil society,  the fishing industry, over 37 financial institutions, technology and auto manufacturers, and numerous NGOs. In spite of this opposition, the company has announced its plans to apply for an exploitation license in 2024.

Arlo Hemphill, Greenpeace USA’s Deep Sea Mining Campaign lead, said: “The reckless pursuit of deep-sea mining by companies like The Metals Company poses an imminent threat to our planet’s last untouched frontier. Ignoring scientific warnings, global opposition, and documented concerns about radiation exposure and health hazards from the nodules it is transporting, The Metals Company is a proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, misleadingly presenting deep-sea mining as a clean energy venture. Deep-sea mining is not a solution; it is a false promise that could irreversibly damage both our climate and communities. We must resist this misleading narrative and instead encourage innovation in the kinds of battery technology that have already rendered such destructive practices unnecessary.”

The Metals Company intends to be the first commercial deep sea mining operation in 2024. TMC has been actively courting US investment for its deep sea mining ventures and opportunities to use US infrastructure, such as ports, in its production chain.

In July, U.S. Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) introduced two measures calling for a moratorium on deep seabed mining unless and until its consequences are fully understood and an appropriate protective regulatory regime is established. The American Seabed Protection Act would put a moratorium on deep-sea mining activities in American waters or by American companies on the high seas. It would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Academies of Science to assess how mining activities could affect ocean species, carbon sequestration processes, and communities that depend on the framework to guarantee protection for these unique ecosystems and the communities that rely on them. Finally, it would require the United States to oppose international and other national seabed mining efforts until the President certifies that the ISA has adopted a suitable regulatory framework to guarantee protection for these unique ecosystems and the communities who rely on them.

Deep sea mining is being addressed at the state level through legislation championed by Hawaiian Senator Chris Lee, which allows the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation to delay or deny port of entry approval to vessels engaged in deep sea mining activity not permitted or licensed by the state. Representative Nicole Lowen’s House resolution also calls on the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to prohibit seabed mining in state waters.


Notes to the editor:

  • Images and videos are available here.
  • Solomon “Uncle Sol” Pili Kahoʻohalahala: is a seventh-generation native Hawaiian descendant, kupaʻāina, from the small Hawaiian island of Lānaʻi. He is the current native Hawaiian Elder of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Advisory Council and Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group. He is the current Chair of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and is a Cultural Community Member of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. He is a member of the indigenous peoples NGO Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA).
  • The United States, which has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is not a voting member of the ISA. It participates from the sidelines as an observer but wields considerable political power in the multilateral forum, where it is helping to craft the rules that will govern the industry. The U.S. government has expressed aspirations to benefit from the controversial practice should it move forward.

Contact: Tanya Brooks, Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA
(+1) 703-342-9226, [email protected]

Greenpeace USA is part of a global network of independent campaigning organizations that use peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace USA is committed to transforming the country’s unjust social, environmental, and economic systems from the ground up to address the climate crisis, advance racial justice, and build an economy that puts people first. Learn more at

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