RUSH TO MINE THE DEEP CONTINUES AS GLOBAL BACKLASH BUILDS
Rush to mine the deep continues as global backlash builds. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition calls on member States of the International Seabed Authority to agree on a moratorium on the emerging destructive deep-sea mining industry as negotiations begin this week in Kingston, Jamaica.
Momentum for a moratorium on deep-sea mining continues to skyrocket globally as the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the body charged with regulating the nascent industry, continues the rush to mine the deep. The Authority’s Council and Assembly will meet from 18th July – 5th August. Central to their agenda is advancing a set of regulations that, if adopted, could see commercial deep-sea mining begin in as little as a year’s time.
The speculative industry received significant backlash at the recent UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, where governments, parliamentarians, youth groups and scientists all called for a halt to the industry. During the Conference, Palau launched an Alliance of Countries Calling for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium, with Fiji and Samoa joining; Parliamentarians for Global Action launched a Global Parliamentary Declaration Calling for a Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining and French president Emmanual Macron called for a stop to mining in the high seas.
Scientists continue to warn that if mining in the fragile deep were to go ahead, it would result in species extinctions and the irreversible destruction of habitats, not to mention as yet unquantified impacts on fisheries and the deep ocean’s capacity to sequester carbon.
“The ISA’s mandate is clear,” said Duncan Currie, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition’s legal advisor. “Under international law, the Authority must ensure the protection of the marine environment. The ISA cannot ignore the overwhelming body of scientific evidence that emphasises the irreversible impacts the industry would have. If the protection of the marine environment cannot be ensured, then deep-sea mining cannot go ahead.”
Would-be miners, The Metals Company, recently admitted the certainty of the net impacts the industry would have on the environment in their latest US Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The company stated that “Operations in the CCZ [the area of the Pacific Ocean earmarked for the first wave of commercial strip-mining] are certain to disturb wildlife and may impact ecosystem function.” Share prices of the prospective mining company have spiralled downward since their September 2021 merger, and continue to plummet as resistance gains traction.
If deep-sea mining were to proceed, it could result in a loss of critical ecosystem functioning including critical carbon sequestration. The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report published in February this year warned of deep-sea mining as a potential future source of impacts on carbon sequestration in the deep.
“As the world faces up to the realities of the climate crisis and the urgent action needed to mitigate the worst impacts, pushing ahead with commercial resource extraction that would risk disturbing the planet’s largest carbon sinks is the height of irresponsibility” said the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition’s Director, Sian Owen.
Industry proponents claim that minerals strip-mined (or as they like to put it, “harvested”) from the deep are needed for batteries for smart technology. But the battery sector is rapidly moving in a different direction in the face of the environmental and social impacts of continued resource extraction.
“If deep-sea mining were to begin, there would be no going back,” warned the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition’s Co-Founder and Policy Advisor, Matthew Gianni. “Given the significant risks it poses to the marine environment, livelihoods, culture, the ecosystem functions that sustain us, and a complete absence of social license, the only justifiable way forward is a moratorium.”