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Kingston, Jamaica – From 18-29 March, countries will gather for the International Seabed Authority’s (ISA) first Council meeting of the 29th session. Amidst escalating global opposition to the industry, calls for precaution, and the absence of scientific understanding, the ISA is pressing forward with a new and flawed negotiating text in an attempt to accelerate negotiations. Meanwhile, due to a legal loophole, mining could be greenlighted this year. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) is on the ground, calling on governments to prioritize precaution and establish a moratorium on deep-sea mining. 

The release of a new version of the draft Mining Code (known as the ‘Consolidated Text’) has sparked alarm. Developed through an opaque and inconsistent process, the new text remains fraught with gaps and outstanding matters that are insurmountable in the foreseeable future, highlighting the critical limitations in our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and the potential ramifications of commercial mining activities. 

The DSCC’s Global Deep-Sea Mining Campaign Lead, Sofia Tsenikli, asserts, “The urgency of the deep-sea mining threat to our ocean cannot be overstated. We know that if allowed, it could cause irreversible ecological damage, including the complete loss of deep-sea ecosystems and species yet to be discovered and understood. But instead of putting the protection of the marine environment front and center, we see proposals from mining companies that walk back environmental provisions in the new text. States must prioritize science and precaution in these negotiations – a moratorium is the only sensible way forward”. 

In response to the inadequacies of the new draft text, the DSCC calls upon States to reject it as the primary basis for these negotiations and instead establish a moratorium on deep-sea mining until comprehensive scientific research can accurately assess its environmental impact and the risks to deep-sea ecosystems.

Simultaneously, concerns regarding the transparency and pace of negotiations have been raised with plans to transition certain discussions to accelerated sessions which are likely not to be made public, effectively silencing critical voices from Indigenous and civil society groups, and going against the wishes of several States.  

The DSCC’s Policy Officer, Emma Wilson, highlighted: “Not only has the ISA Secretariat released a consolidated text that does not accurately reflect negotiations, they are now attempting to transition certain parts of the negotiations to a more accelerated and restricted format. An issue of this magnitude demands transparency, inclusivity, and a calm negotiating climate that does not pressure States into rash and rushed decisions. Negotiators must be granted the time required for fully-informed and responsible decision-making.”

Meanwhile, the Metals Company’s assertions to exploit an outdated legal loophole to commence commercial mining operations later this year, irrespective of negotiation outcomes and the wishes of States, further underscores the urgency of the situation. 

Duncan Currie, the DSCC’s legal advisor, emphasized the need for action: “These are the motives of a company bent on making a profit for their shareholders at the expense of the environment. States are at a critical juncture, but they don’t need to settle for the lesser of two evils – unregulated mining or a flawed mining code. Instead, it’s time for States to heed the urgent call for a moratorium, slamming the brakes on deep-sea mining, and prioritize the future of our ocean”. 

As negotiations continue, the imperative for immediate action grows ever more apparent. There is consensus among independent scientists that there is currently no way to avoid environmental harm if deep-sea mining were to go ahead, with irreversible and permanent impacts on nature and climate. The recent Planet Tracker report ‘How to Lose Half a Trillion’ underscores the financial risks associated with the industry, reinforcing the urgent need for a moratorium. 

The DSCC’s co-founder, Matthew Gianni, called for immediate action: “As we head into this Council meeting with ever-growing transparency and governance concerns, it is clear that the ISA needs urgent transformation to fulfill its mandate to safeguard the deep from harm. A moratorium on deep-sea mining is imperative, and the periodic review of the Authority is long overdue.” 

 

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About the DSCC

The DSCC is made up of over 100 non-government organizations, fishers organizations and law and policy institutes working together to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. We aim to substantially reduce the greatest threats to life in the deep sea and to safeguard the long-term health, integrity and resilience of deep-sea ecosystems.

Contact

For media inquiries, please contact patricia@communicationsinc.co.uk 

Notes to editors

  • Twenty-four States are calling for an international moratorium on deep-sea mining, along with many others. View the full list of stakeholders calling for a moratorium here.
  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is the UN affiliated intergovernmental body charged both with regulating any deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction and with ensuring the effective protection of the marine environment. 

 

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