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Marine Science



Humanity faces a triple planetary crisis as the International Seabed Authority rushes ahead to approve deep-sea mining. This week countries will convene in Kingston, Jamaica for the International Seabed Authority’s Council meeting to negotiate a mining code that, if agreed and adopted, would open up our ocean to the largest mining operation humanity has ever seen. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) urges governments to draw a line in the sand and support a moratorium on the destructive, emerging industry.

As global governments arrive in Kingston from October 30 – November 8 for the International Seabed Authority (ISA) Council meeting, the controversial deep-sea mining industry is thrown into the international spotlight once again.

This November meeting follows a 3-week negotiating session in July in which ISA Member States did not give the mining industry the green light to begin commercial-scale deep-sea mining. However, the two-year legal loophole that would allow a company to apply for a provisional license to mine even in the absence of a mining code remains open, leaving the world’s most pristine environment exposed to risk. Furthermore, States agreed to an indicative timeline with the view of adopting a mining code by 2025, despite massive environmental risks and scientific gaps in our understanding of the deep sea and the impacts of deep-sea mining.

The DSCC’s Global Deep-Sea Mining Campaign Lead, Sofia Tsenikli, stated:

“Humanity is at a crossroads. We cannot sit idly by as a small number of States decide to unleash the largest mining operation the world has ever seen. The environment cannot take more damage. Deep-sea mining would undermine the right of future generations to a clean and sustainable future. With the two-year loophole still open and States rushing to conclude a mining code, the only solution is a moratorium through the ISA Assembly now.”

As a small group of countries attempt to forge ahead with approving the risky industry, globally, the momentum towards a moratorium continues to grow across a broad spectrum of society. Currently, 22 governments are calling for a halt to this destructive industry, with Monaco being the latest government to call for a stop. Nearly 800 scientists, 36 companies, including BMW, Google, Samsung, Volkswagen, Volvo, Philips, among many others, 37 financial institutions, representing EUR 3.3. trillion in assets, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, fishing groups, Indigenous peoples, youth, and local communities have all urged the ISA to apply the brakes on the industry to avoid causing both irreversible destruction in one of the most fragile ecosystems on our planet and exacerbating the climate crisis. If the industry were to go ahead, scientists warn that it would result in an irreversible loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, species extinctions, and could threaten our planet’s largest carbon sink.

The DSCC’s Policy Officer, Emma Wilson, added:

“Due to the ISA’s structure and bias towards approving mining, once a mining code is adopted, it would be almost impossible to stop this destructive industry. Governments are faced with a once-in-a-generation decision to either destroy or protect the life support system of the planet as a whole.  Either we continue down the same old path of extractivism and destruction that has caused the triple planetary crisis, or we work towards creating a more circular and sustainable pathway forward that brings humanity into balance with nature.”

As countries meet again to negotiate the mining code, issues concerning the governance, lack of transparency and inclusion of the ISA continue to plague the process. NGOs and journalists in the July meeting faced restrictions to fully participate in the negotiations.

Duncan Currie, the DSCC’s legal advisor, commented:

“As it stands, there is a clear industry-driven agenda embedded within the mining code proposed by the International Seabed Authority to regulate the emerging deep-sea mining industry. Adoption of the mining code would inevitably lead to irrevocable mining contracts which would be in place for many decades.  The proposed mining code would effectively allow deep-sea miners to write their own rules, while independent and transparent scientific evidence is missing. There is not even a scientific committee in place.”

The DSCC’s co-founder, Matthew Gianni, added:

“The member countries of the ISA need to urgently address fundamental governance and transparency flaws of the organization and transform the ISA. As a global multilateral body charged with preventing harm to the deep-sea environment, countries need to take that obligation seriously and stop pretending that deep-sea mining can somehow be ‘sustainable’ and managed to prevent damage to the marine environment. The focus of the ISA must shift from opening up the deep ocean as a new frontier of industrial resource exploitation to deep-sea research and exploration, to help humanity understand the importance of the deep ocean for sequestering carbon, mitigating the impacts of climate change and the value to humankind in protecting its incredible biological diversity.”

Photo credit: NOAA