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This week countries from around the world will convene in Kingston, Jamaica to negotiate rules and regulations 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 descend on Kingston from July 10th – 28th for the International Seabed Authority (ISA) Council and Assembly meetings, the controversial deep-sea mining industry is thrown into the international spotlight once again. The meetings coincide with the deadline of a legal loophole triggered by the Pacific island of Nauru on behalf of the mining company, Nauru Offshore Resources Inc, a subsidiary of Canadian would-be miners, The Metals Company. This loophole could open the way for mining applications to be given the green light even without regulations in place. Standing in opposition, an increasing number of governments are realizing that the most responsible approach to safeguarding our ocean and averting irreversible harm, is through a moratorium on deep-sea mining.

“States have been rushing to develop and adopt a Mining Code for the last two years at the ISA Council. The very fact this has not been possible is confirmation of the glaring scientific gaps that exist, the volume of unaddressed regulatory issues and the growing global backlash to an industry we know will cause irreversible destruction to our ocean at a time when we should be obsessed with protecting it. The ISA Assembly must safeguard our ocean by establishing a moratorium on deep-sea mining, so that we do not continue to make the same mistakes that led us to the multiple environmental crises we face today.”

DSCC Policy Officer, Emma Wilson

This year, the ISA Assembly will discuss a proposal to defer the advance of deep-sea mining, led by Chile, Costa Rica, France, Palau and Vanuatu. This puts the need for a long term suspension of deep-sea mining formally on the ISA negotiating table for the first time in the ISA’s history.

The race to defend the ocean is heating up at the ISA. The threat of deep-sea mining is looming, but it is fantastic to see global momentum against the destructive industry grow. We call on all States to stand up and be counted by establishing a deep-sea mining moratorium at the ISA Assembly. By hitting the brakes on deep-sea mining, governments will be prioritizing the health of our ocean for future generations over short term profit. Anything less would run contrary to their ocean protection obligations, including those enshrined in the recently adopted High Seas Biodiversity Treaty. 

DSCC Deep Sea Mining Moratorium Campaign Lead, Sofia Tsenikli

Last Friday, the DSCC launched a new campaign action calling on members of the public to urge their country’s Ministers to support a moratorium on the industry. Switzerland are the latest in a long line of governments adding their voice to calls for a moratorium, precautionary pause or ban, which includes: Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Fiji, Germany, Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Spain, Switzerland and Vanuatu.

More than 750 scientists and recently, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), have warned about the unavoidable and irreversible impacts of deep-sea mining if it were to go ahead. Resistance to the industry has also been felt across a broad spectrum of society. In addition to the growing resistance from governments and scientists, global companies including BMW Group, Google, Volswagen and global financial institutions including the European Investment Bank have all called for a moratorium on the industry and/or pledged to keep deep-sea minerals out of their investments and supply chains. Indigenous leaders, the fisheries sector, youth groups and civil society have all urged ISA member States to rethink the rush to mine the deep.

Contrary to prospectors’ claims, the battery industry continues to move away from the minerals deep-sea miners seek to target in favour of a new generation of batteries that reuses these materials – or does not use them at all. A new EASAC report, which calls for a deep-sea mining moratorium, highlighted that “the argument that deep-sea mining is essential to meet the demands for critical materials, is thus contested and does not support the urgency with which exploitation of deep-sea minerals is being pursued.”

“Deep-sea mining is not the route to decarbonization that its proponents tout it to be, nor will it replace land-based mining or somehow be ‘better’ than land-based mining. The rush to open the deep sea by the International Seabed Authority is being driven by a company operating for pure self-gain. If the ISA begins permitting deep-sea mining, it will be based on a false notion that the world ‘needs’ deep-sea metals, be detrimental to the planet and humankind as a whole and only serve to line the pockets of a few corporations in the global North.”

DSCC’s Policy Adviser, Matthew Gianni

Countries will also continue negotiations on a decision of the ISA Council anticipating an application for mining from The Metals Company and potentially closing the 2 year loophole.

It is clear that States do not want mining to go ahead in the absence of regulations. Regulations must not be adopted unless certain other crucial conditions are met, such as having adequate science and ensuring that the environment is effectively protected.”

DSCC international Legal Adviser, Duncan Currie.

The DSCC will be present in Kingston throughout negotiations, advocating for a moratorium on deep-sea mining and calling for reform of the ISA to ensure it becomes a more transparent, inclusive and effective decision-making body that acts on behalf of humankind as a whole. The Authority, and particularly its Secretary General, has recently faced scrutiny for having a pro-mining bias.

ENDS

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Notes to editors

  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is the UN 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.

Additional quotes from DSCC members

The deep ocean is the blue heart of our planet- it helps to make life on earth possible. Global governments are at a crossroads. They have the opportunity to stand on the right side of history and say enough is enough by supporting a moratorium on a new destructive industry that we don’t need or want.” – Sian Owen, DSCC Director.

Stopping deep-sea mining means protecting the largest habitat on the planet, facing down the newest frontier of neo-colonial extractivism and challenging techno-fixes that label destruction as green and necessary. Today, we can stop an industry from gaining a foothold and ravaging one of our last biodiverse boundaries – the precious ecosystems of the ocean’s floor.” – Lousia Casson, Global Project Lead Greenpeace.

The WWF commissioned Future is Circular report published in November sets out that we can reduce demand for the minerals that the deep-seabed mining industry is looking at by 58% – and this is based upon the IEA 2050 Net zero scenario. Deep-seabed mining is not necessary, and will come too late to contribute to the energy transition, where minerals primarily are needed in the short term.”– Jessica Battle, Global Lead for WWF’s No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative.

A huge reservoir of biodiversity resides in the deep sea, with thousands of species still yet to even be discovered. It also plays an important but understudied role in vital Earth systems such as carbon cycling and storage. Seabed mining, regulated or otherwise, must not proceed before addressing the extensive gaps in scientific knowledge about the potential impacts on the deep-sea ecosystem and the crucial services it provides to us and our planet.” – Julian Jackson, Senior Manager, Ocean Governance, at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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