For release 28.3.22 – Kingston Jamaica
Negotiations will continue this week which could open the deep sea to a new frontier of destructive industrial extraction.
The meeting of the Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston will continue its rush to mine the deep, negotiating new regulations which, if approved and adopted, could give the green light to deep-sea mining as soon as 2023.
ISA Member States and observers spent last week discussing the details of a Mining Code intended to move activity in the deep ocean from the exploration to exploitation phase, thus opening some of our planet’s most fragile ecosystems to strip mining.
During the first week of negotiations a number of States and observers expressed concerns around a serious lack of:
- Independent scientific information underpinning the regulations, including glaring gaps on climate change and the risks the new extractive industry could pose to carbon sequestration and storage;
- Baseline information on deep-sea ecosystems and how they contribute to the health of the planet as a whole;
- Marine mammal surveys to determine the potential impacts of deep-sea mining on animals such as dolphins and whales.
At the same time a number of countries recognized that extensive damage from strip mining the deep-sea would likely occur and that the negotiation of the regulations to date would ‘externalise’ the cost of damage to the environment and ecosystem services provided by the deep ocean to be borne by society.
Scientists continue to warn that until we have adequate independent scientific information that would allow us to understand and monitor the impacts effectively, the damaging industry should not be allowed to go ahead.
- The Federal States of Micronesia warned of a lack of inclusion of traditional and indigenous knowledge in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).
- Costa Rica championed the need for proposed financial models to take environmental impacts into consideration – in effect the polluter pays principle.
- The USA warned of a lack of a ‘no-action’ alternative within EIAs. As things stand, an unsatisfactory EIA will not prevent mining from occurring.
- Norway stated a preference to avoid too many reporting requirements as part of regulations.
- Tonga questioned the need for independent scientific assessment.
- Throughout the negotiations so far, the UK has advocated for the rapid development of the proposed standards and guidelines.
This week, negotiations to develop a set of standards and guidelines for the proposed industry continue and later this week, States and observers will turn their attention to compliance and enforcement of the proposed rules and regulations.
A key question surrounding the nascent industry remains – who really stands to benefit, were it to go ahead? The ISA is an autonomous intergovernmental body established under the UN Law of the Sea Convention charged with safeguarding the health of the deep sea from harm and ensuring the deep sea, the common heritage of mankind, is for the benefit of all humankind. If deep-sea mining were to proceed, only a handful of companies would see the profits.
“As well as the risks deep-sea mining poses to ocean and climate health, the industry could pose significant financial and liability risks to countries acting as sponsor states, who as it stands may shoulder the costs from any damages resulting from operations.”Duncan Currie, representing the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition during negotiations
Would-be deep-sea miners, The Metals Company (TMC), has said that they want to start commercial deep-sea mining in 2024, and to try to make this happen, their sponsoring State, Nauru, has triggered what is known as a two-year rule to rush to adopt regulations by July 2023.
The regulations proposed by the ISA are based on the assumption that deep-sea mining will go ahead, driven by anachronistic extractive and profit driven models that are not and can never be sustainable. Duncan Currie commented: “The ISA is not fit for purpose and it should not be dancing to the tune of the deep-sea mining industry.”
“We can’t mine our way out of the climate crisis. Rather than open up a new extractive industry that we don’t need, do not want and cannot afford we need to hit pause and work towards making production and consumption more sustainable.”Matthew Gianni, representing Earthworks at negotiations
The DSCC will continue to advocate for a halt to the development of the Mining Code and a moratorium on destructive deep-sea mining. The ISA’s Council meeting is taking place from 21.3.22 – 1.4.22.