The Growing Movement to Stop Deep Sea Mining

March 25, 2022

Written by: Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining Campaign

Approximately 2 million square kilometers of Pacific Ocean Floor is currently under exploration leasehold for deep sea mining to national governments and private companies within both territorial and international waters.

There is clear scientific consensus that the impacts of deep sea mining would be extensive, severe and last for generations, causing irreversible species loss and ecosystem degradation. Furthermore, presumed social and economic gains are unsubstantiated and ocean-based livelihoods, food security, and cultures are at risk especially for Pacific islander livelihoods, and cultures.

The Pacific Ocean is our home. We live in it, we depend on it for sustenance, for our livelihoods and economic wellbeing. Our cultures are based on deep knowledge and spiritual connection with the ocean.” – The Pacific Blue Line Collective

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), the autonomous intergovernmental body responsible for regulating mineral activities and protecting the marine environment in areas beyond national jurisdiction, has issued 30 licenses for mineral exploration in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This covers millions of square kilometers, typically at depths greater than 3 kilometers.

To date, no commercial deep sea mining has occurred – and a wide cross-section of society hopes to keep it that way. Scientists, legal experts, national and international governments, local communities, high-profile conservationists, and civil society have called for either a moratorium or a complete ban on deep sea mining.

Deep sea mining as an emerging industry clearly lacks social license and investment carries financial and reputational risks.

Scientists predict that deep sea mining will cause an irreversible net loss of biodiversity, endangering deep sea species and threatening extinction. They have warned of the harms caused by introducing light, sound, and pollution affecting “thousands of meters of water column, from the seabed to the surface.”

UNEP’s practical guidance for finance institutions on sustainable ocean finance, released in March 2021, clearly notes that deep sea mining cannot be a sustainable investment option given the risks involved. In a rejection of deep sea mining, global companies BMW, Volvo, Google and Samsung are leading a business call for a moratorium and have committed to not source metals from deep sea mining. Government officials and NGO representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion at the IUCN in 2021 calling for a moratorium on deep sea mining and the reform of the ISA.

However, in June 2021 Nauru triggered what is known as the “two-year rule” which requires the ISA Council to finalise regulations within two years or “consider and provisionally approve” within two years a plan of work (exploitation contract) for its contractor, Nauru Ocean Resources Inc, (NORI) even without regulations. There is concern that other companies may follow, opening our oceans to the largest unregulated extractive project in history.

Despite the continued push from deep sea miners the movement to stop deep sea mining before it begins continues to grow. We hope you will join us!

The Deep Sea Mining Campaign (DSMC) has had a consistent focus for over a decade deep sea mining and its very real threat to the world’s oceans. Our unique approach combines research and evidence-based advocacy, finance advocacy and collaborative solidarity with frontline communities across the Pacific, and regional and international partners and networks.

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