DSCC representatives Duncan Currie and Matthew Gianni attended the International Seabed Authority Ad Hoc Working Group on Financial Matters, followed by a special Council meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, from 21 February to 1 March, 2019.
At the Working Group, the DSCC asked repeatedly how the 1% figure earmarked for the environment had been derived. The DSCC said that an accurate valuation of deep sea ecosystem services and damage to biodiversity is key, and emphasized that the Liability Fund would need to be fully funded before any mining begins. “It is essential that all funds for the environment, including liability funds, are paid by deep-sea miners, not by the Common Heritage of Mankind,” said Duncan Currie. “The work on valuing the deep sea and the inevitable loss of biodiversity from mining has not even begun.”
At the Council meeting, the DSCC insisted that the precautionary principle must be binding, that workshops must be open to all participants, and that there should be an Environment or Scientific Committee in place. Equally important for transparency, the Legal and Technical Commission should hold its meetings in open session and there should be virtual webinars to facilitate participation. Additionally, the DSCC noted that standards must be binding and that regional environmental management plans must be in place before any mining applications are accepted.
“It is unacceptable that the powerful Legal and Technical Commission holds its meetings behind closed doors,” said Matthew Gianni, “and it is long past time that an Environment or Scientific Committee was formed.”
The DSCC was, however, encouraged by an intervention by the African Group, which stated that “ We would like to recall, in this regard, words pronounced by Peter Thomson, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Ocean…in Davos last month, ‘There is a UN decade for Ocean science, which has been agreed to by 193 countries […] in the General Assembly in December 2017, and that decade will run from 2021 to 2030 […] why wouldn’t we give that decade its full run before we start even thinking about disturbing the seabed of the high seas, we are talking moratorium of 10 years in that case’. These words are food for thought to all of us.”
The DSCC hosted a side event about environmental impact assessments – a critical measure toward ensuring the effective protection of the marine environment. The event focused on the importance of public independent scientific advice and expert examination of all environmental documents, with stakeholder participation.
During the meeting, Nauru gave its national microphone to deep-sea mining company DeepGreen, which made numerous unsubstantiated claims, including that deep-sea mining is needed for renewable energy and that it will stop when it has enough. Yet DeepGreen has asked for the suggested 30 year mining period to be extended. Belgium then handed its microphone (normally the privilege and responsibility of a government representing its national interests) to its contractor – Deme – which insisted that was not intending to “mine” but to “harvest” deep-sea minerals.
“We, and many others, were shocked that Belgium and Nauru handed over their microphones to their sponsored contactors,” said DSCC coordinator, Sian Owen. “It is unacceptable for countries to cede their voice to corporate entities. Governments are expected to represent the broad interests of their entire citizenry. Corporate actors have much narrower private interests. We are seeking confirmation that Belgium stands behind Deme’s claims. If not, they must repudiate them”.
The ISA Council and Assembly meet again from 15-26 July 2019.
DSCC interventions (speeches) and presentations are available at https://www.savethehighseas.org/resources/publications/dscc-interventions-to-the-international-seabed-authority-for-the-25th-annual-session-in-february-2019/