Coalition of governments pushes for halt in deep sea mining

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) will bring governments together in Kingston to discuss whether to allow deep sea mining to go ahead, in a meeting starting July 10. Deep sea mining is an extractive industry that has the potential to damage the ecosystem and destroy biodiversity in the sea.

Because of a failure to reach an agreement on mining regulations in previous meetings, starting on July 9 any company can present a plan to mine the seabed without those regulations in place. A coalition of governments pushed back and for the first time in history requested that the ISA negotiate a proposal for a long-term suspension on this dangerous activity. 

Greenpeace France Oceans campaigner François Chartier, who is attending the meeting, said: “Governments must put an immediate stop to this risky industry in order to secure long-term protection for the oceans. 

“Reckless companies were hoping that by now a new dawn for this industry would’ve been seen, as the ISA has left the backdoor open for deep sea mining to start operating. But their bet backfired as deep-sea miners have seriously underestimated the level of controversy and resistance to their attempt to force through the start of this destructive practice.” 

The governments of Chile, Costa Rica, France, Palau and Vanuatu have formally asked the ISA to discuss the need for a long-term suspension of deep-sea mining at the Assembly meeting, July 24 to 28. The proposal put forward by this cross-regional coalition highlights that governments have an obligation to act to protect the marine environment from harm caused by deep sea mining, and that government decisions at the ISA must uphold, not undermine, their international climate and biodiversity commitments and the precautionary principle. 

The ISA Council meeting will negotiate next steps if a mining application is lodged. These negotiations will inform the meeting of the full ISA Assembly later this month.

Chartier said: “Right now, there’s very little standing between the natural wonders of the deep ocean and the mining machines, but more governments are listening to the science and stepping up efforts to stop deep sea mining from starting this year. 

“However, a handful of laggards are doing the opposite – like announcing plans to mine the Arctic seabed. It’s a matter of urgency that states gathered in Kingston give these unique and unknown areas the protection they need from this destructive industry.” 

We’re seeing an unprecedented wave of governments voicing concerns about the impacts of deep-sea mining. Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland came out calling for precautionary pause. Pacific activists and scientists have also been sounding the alarm about this threat to the oceans. 

Meanwhile, Norway has not only consistently enabled the industry’s agenda to determine the decision-making process at the ISA, but also recently announced plans to open its continental shelf to deep sea mining. This stands in stark contradiction to being a leader of the International Ocean Panel and shows an alarming level of discredit towards the growing scientific warnings about the impact this industry could cause.

Chartier said: “The ISA’s mandate is to protect the oceans, but the close connection between its authorities and the industry has left the credibility of this institution hanging by a thread. 

“If governments are serious about their environmental credentials, they have to say no to deep sea mining — no ifs, no buts. They either allow an entirely new extractive industry to start in the middle of an ecological crisis, or they do the right thing for once. This is the moment to take the wind out of the sails of an industry that has no future.”

Photo credit: Muhammad Adimaja / Greenpeace. Greenpeace activists from Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines join in the Global Day Action against Deep See Mining, in Tanjung Lesung, Indonesia. The action which was held simultaneously in 59 countries urged the global leaders to take action and cancel all marine mining plans.

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

subscribe maritime fairtrade

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more