Mining companies and governments will soon be allowed to extract minerals from the deep-ocean floor. These rare metals are vital for a more environmentally sustainable future on land, but at what cost to the health of the ocean?
La Coalición para la Conservación de las Fondos Oceánicos pide a los líderes mundiales que apoyen una moratoria en la extracción minera de los fondos marinos en zonas fuera de la jurisdicción nacional, ya que todavía se desconocen sus posibles consecuencias en los ecosistemas.
Mining on the sea floor should not begin before a full assessment of likely environmental impacts can be made, a report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) said on Wednesday.
Source: Geographical Author: Sabine Christiansen and Sebastian Unger
You may have heard about minerals on the bottom of the ocean. The UK Government sponsors several exploration contracts for UK Seabed Resources (a subsidiary of the American aerospace and security company Lockheed-Martin) in the Pacific Ocean to look for them. These minerals come from the so-called ‘Area’, the deep seafloor beyond the limits of national jurisdiction and far out in the global ocean.
This session was hosted as part of the 2020 Virtual Ocean Dialogues by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Pacific Network on Globalisation.
The ocean is a constant for people of the Pacific, with cultures centred around long-held relationships that remain embedded in everyday life. Knowledge, guardianship and traditional resource management systems enable the bounty of a healthy ocean to perpetually sustain physical, economic and spiritual well-being.
The impending industry of deep seabed mining has focused its attention on the Pacific region both on the high seas through the International Seabed Authority and within national jurisdictions, where proposals to date have been shown to be at odds not only with cultural beliefs and practices of Pacific societies, but also with contemporary marine legislation, economic and cultural activities such as fisheries and tourism, and the commitments of all countries to reverse the decline in biodiversity. The outcomes and stories of civil society engagement with prolonged seabed mining licensing processes lay bare the question of appropriateness of the activity in the 21st century.
In this Virtual Ocean Dialogue session, stories from frontline indigenous leaders offered a Pacific people’s perspective on the “sustainable relationship” with the life-giving entity, Moana nui. Experts also explored the interconnectedness of deep-sea environments and the rights of both human societies and nature in the context of exploiting the global commons.
Scientists are urging a temporary halt to deep-sea metal mining. They warn in a report that it could cause severe, damaging effects on Pacific Ocean areas.
The recently-released report examined more than 250 published studies on deep-sea mining. The research was examined by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign – a collection of not-for-profit organizations. Environmental group MiningWatch Canada also cooperated on the study.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) and Greenpeace today hailed the decision by the New Zealand Court of Appeal denying Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) permission to mine the South Taranaki Bight as a victory for the oceans.
The Court of Appeal confirmed today that the proposed seabed mining operation that would dredge a 66 square kilometre section of the seabed off the coast of Patea for ironsands, does not meet numerous environmental and Treaty of Waitangi principles and therefore could not go ahead.
“This sends a powerful message that New Zealand waters are not open for pillage by seabed miners. We doubt very much that any future investor would now have the appetite for throwing money at what is clearly a lost cause,” said Cindy Baxter, chairperson of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.
“This sends a powerful message that New Zealand waters are not open for pillage by seabed miners. We doubt very much that any future investor would now have the appetite for throwing money at what is clearly a lost cause”
“This three-year process has been a long, drawn-out battle, underlining the need for a ban on seabed mining. This is the third New Zealand application and again the seabed miners have lost, at enormous expense to local communities, iwi, environmental groups and industry,” she said.
Jessica Desmond, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, says now is not the time for further exploiting our oceans.
“We have to step back and recognise that seabed mining is simply too destructive to go ahead. We don’t know enough about our fragile marine environment and what mining could do – but the science shows the impacts would be negative,” she says.
“This particular mining operation would put endangered Hector’s dolphins, blue whales, seabirds, and coral life at risk. It’s a risk we cannot afford.
“Our oceans perform a myriad of vital services to humanity – from feeding communities to providing breakthroughs in medical science. It is high time we protected them from harmful activities.
“This seabed mine would have set a very bad precedent for other companies waiting in the wings. Today’s decision will be felt across the Pacific where communities are fighting other similarly damaging huge seabed mining projects.”
Just last month, the UK Government committed to not sponsor nor support the issuing of any exploitation licences for deep sea mining projects until there is sufficient scientific evidence about the potential impact on deep sea ecosystems. They also want to see strong and enforceable environmental standards in place before any mining could go ahead.
Prominent environmentalist Sir David Attenborough has also warned of potential irreversible harm that could be done through seabed mining.
Today’s decision upholds a High Court decision last year that quashed the EPA consent granted to TTR.
The Appeal Court decision also upheld several important points of law the groups had cross-appealed on, as the High Court had rejected these arguments.
These included: including the relevance of international law, the meaning of the legislation regulating New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, its object and purpose, the precautionary principle, the relevance of the Resource Management Act regime, and a financial bond to ensure future environmental harms can be addressed.
Other possible seabed mining bids could come from companies holding either mining or exploration permits off New Plymouth, Waihi Beach, and the Chatham Rise – where Chatham Rock Phosphate has already failed in its first attempt, and has been telling investors it is waiting for this decision to be resolved before it reapplies.