DSCC Interventions – 23/3/23

Date: 24 March 2023

A brief comment relating to 101bis

We take the floor simply to remind the room of a recent whistle-blowing incident, where scientists aboard the TMC ship, the Hidden Gem, put their jobs on the line in order to signal the spill of sediments during the NORI test mine, that had been given the green light by a sub-group of the LTC under silence procedure at the end of last year.

We note that this draft regulation suggests that whistle-blowing incidents be followed up by independent investigations, but of course no such thing happened in the instance of the NORI spill, although this would have seemed like the next logical step.  

This feeds into a wider concern: we know that contractors have violated the terms of their contracts under the exploration regulations, but we are yet to be informed of the nature of the violations or the names of the contractors concerned and the ISA has never taken punitive action. We would suggest that if a contractor has been found to be non-compliant during exploration, they should be automatically barred from exploitation.

On behalf of the DSCC, WWF and TBA21.

Starting with the first paragraph of this regulation, we would like to take this opportunity to stress that even if mining operations are restricted to a certain area, words on paper will not be enough to restrict the effects of those operations. The ocean and the life it holds is characterised by its connectivity – it cannot be bound by artificial demarcations imposed by human hands. Plumes are carried by numerous forces, the destruction of organisms in one area will affect those in another, and recent studies have found that noise from one mine alone could travel 500km, resulting in potentially fatal impacts on a multitude of marine life, including iconic species such as whales. 

We would also like to express our concern that the term “Plume dispersal” in paragraph 2 bis fails to account for plume trajectory, composition and biological effects, including the effects of chemical contamination of the water column. 

We share Germany’s concerns regarding the addition of adaptive management. We suggest adaptive management is misplaced in the context of deep-sea mining, due to the irreversible and permanent nature of damage. Once a species is wiped out, no amount of ‘adaptation’ will bring it back. Adaptive management must not be used where it is inconsistent with the precautionary approach – such as when there is inadequate information and where the damage could be significant, as is clearly the case here.

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