The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is meeting again at its headquarters in Kingston, from October 31 to November 11. So, what has changed since the last meeting, and what are the prospects for this one?
Well, the good news is that the New Zealand Government today (October 27, 2022) decided to support a global moratorium on deep sea mining. Huge appreciation to Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta and to all those who campaigned hard in New Zealand to make this happen.
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Nanaia Mahuta
Now, when are Caribbean governments going to take a stand in support of their brothers and sisters in the small island states of the Pacific? I know that Caribbean youth are speaking out on deep sea mining and the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council wrote to Jamaica’s Prime Minister in July expressing their concerns. More on that to follow!
Time is of the essence. In nine months’ time, the “two-year rule” will expire. This will open up the global ocean commons to large-scale industrial mineral extraction by July 2023 – with whatever rules might be in place at that time. It’s a frightening thought to imagine those vast machines plundering our ocean, which – for one thing – is filled with so much as yet undiscovered and unstudied wonder and biodiversity. This is not to mention the terrifying climate change implications, as we are poised for COP17 in Egypt (which will actually open during the ISA meeting).
Since we have mentioned COP27, please read the latest press release from UN Climate Change. Please read it two or three times, and let it sink in. The implications are unimaginable.
Why has the ISA shown itself unwilling (or unable?) to live up to its mandate of “protecting the deep ocean as the common heritage of humankind“? It has recently approved The Metals Company’s test mining application under a questionable and non-transparent process. As I write, the Canadian company is currently in the Pacific testing its deep sea mining equipment, paving the way for its application to an exploitation contract.
I don’t understand why the ISA, an agency of the United Nations, is forging ahead (and fast) with advancing deep sea mining, while its parent organisation is hosting the huge and absolutely critical COP27 meeting in less than two weeks’ time? Don’t they talk to each other? What is the role of governments at the ISA, and how can they be so quiet here in Kingston, Jamaica, while standing up and making grand speeches on the climate crisis in Sharmh el-Sheikh, Egypt (as they undoubtedly will make grand speeches, not to mention the pledges and promises…) This does not make sense.
More than 600 scientists have warned us that deep-sea mining could pose irreversible risks to nature and climate – now and in the foreseeable future. Isn’t that quite a lot of scientists? What will our children and grandchildren see, when they look at our despoiled ocean, filled with machines and devoid of life?
To me, that is what they call a “doomsday scenario.” The beginning of the end, for sure. I am not being melodramatic; if you think at all deeply on the matter, that is the conclusion you would be forced to arrive at. Well, here is Greenpeace USA’s press release in the wake of the decision by the New Zealand Government and the testing by The Metals Company.
Greenpeace Urges Governments to Stop Deep Sea Mining at Upcoming Negotiations
Washington, DC (October 27, 2022) – The movement against deep sea mining is growing with the New Zealand government’s decision today to back a global moratorium on deep sea mining. The Greenpeace network is calling on governments entering the latest round of negotiations on deep sea mining rules to follow New Zealand’s lead and boldly and decisively call on the regulatory body, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), to put the brakes on deep sea mining before it starts destroying one of the world’s most important and fragile ecosystems. Negotiations will be held from October 31 to November 11 at the ISA headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica.
Most recently, the ISA chose to fast-track the greenlighting of The Metals Company’s trial mining, under a non-transparent process that has been questioned by scientists. Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of TMC, one of the main companies pushing deep sea mining, started testing mining equipment in the depths of the Pacific Ocean in mid-September.
Arlo Hemphill, Greenpeace USA campaigner on deep sea mining and member of Greenpeace’s delegation to the ISA Council meeting, said: “The ISA has repeatedly shown itself to be unwilling or unable to fulfill its mandate of protecting the deep ocean as the common heritage of humankind. Despite scientists’ warnings that deep sea mining may lead to irreversible biodiversity loss and the disturbance of large carbon sinks — a critical resource in the fight against climate change — the ISA is enabling companies to mine the seafloor on a commercial scale as early as 2023. States must take back control of the ISA.”
Hemphill continued: “This latest move from the mining industry should be a wakeup call for all the nations that portray themselves as protectors of the oceans. Deep sea mining is poised to damage vast swaths of seafloor in 2023. Governments have a responsibility to make sure this never happens.”
Negotiations at the ISA to start commercial deep sea mining are at stark odds with the growing movement against deep sea mining, with Pacific nations, civil society organizations, youth groups, political leaders, members of parliaments, and technology and car companies calling for the practice not to start. Yet, except for a few countries like Costa Rica and Chile that have called for caution, opposition to deep sea mining has been largely muted at the ISA itself.
Hemphill continued: “Governments have been far too passive in holding the ISA to account. While they are negotiating agreements to combat the climate crisis and halt and reverse biodiversity loss, an obscure international regulator is undermining their efforts by advancing deep sea mining. It is crucial that delegates boldly and decisively speak up during this round of negotiations to reaffirm the commitments they have made to protecting the ocean and truly preserve it as the common heritage of humankind.”
James Hita, Greenpeace Aotearoa seabed mining campaigner, said: “We applaud the strong and ambitious position taken by the New Zealand government to stand up for ocean protection, reflecting the values of thousands of New Zealanders who join many of our Pacific neighbors and countless civil society groups in the call to press pause on deep sea mining.”
Hita continued: “While we all stand to be affected by the impacts of deep sea mining that could extend to fisheries and the deep-sea’s climate regulatory functions, the greatest risks would be faced by vulnerable coastal communities, and any benefits would line the pockets of very few industry players in wealthy countries. For generations, Pacific peoples have been pushed aside and excluded from decision making processes that directly impact them. Deep sea mining is yet another example of neo-colonial exploitation of Pacific islands and seas, without regard for people’s way of life, food sources and spiritual connection to the ocean.”
Photo: Greenpeace campaigners against deep sea mining in New Zealand.