“Stop plundering the sea floor”: Pressure mounts on deep sea mining company

It’s not often that I comment on stock market news (I am sure this must be the first time). But this is newsworthy!

A company that has been at the forefront of efforts to get deep sea mining under way, The Metals Company (TMC), received a delisting notice from the NASDAQ stock exchange on December 5. It had traded below US$1 per share at its closing bid price for the previous 30 days, sparking the delisting. Moreover, it is losing important investments.

Greenpeace USA takes up the story in a December 7 press release:

Greenpeace Aotearoa campaigner James Hita, who was in México to peacefully confront the ‘Hidden Gem’ – the TMC-commissioned deep sea mining ship – as it returned from test mining in the Pacific Ocean to the port of Manzanillo, México, says the falling stock price and delisting notice is another clear signal to investors in The Metals Company that the tide of public opinion is turning against deep sea mining.

Greenpeace activists from New Zealand and México confronted the deep sea mining vessel “Hidden Gem” off the coast of Manzanillo, México, as it returned to port from eight weeks of test mining in the Clarion Clipperton zone of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and México. One of the biggest vessels of its type in the world, the ship planned to mine 3,600 tonnes of polymetallic nodules from the seafloor in a trial that could pave the way for full scale commercial mining. (Photo: Greenpeace)

Hita said: “We see a future where the ocean that connects and nourishes us all is thriving. A future where people’s way of life is protected and their spiritual connection to the ocean is respected. Deep sea mining has no place in this future.”

The notice comes as civil society and governments worldwide have increasingly called for a halt to the launch of the industry to protect the ocean. The governments of Palau, Samoa, Fiji, Micronesia, Chile, and New Zealand have all called for a moratorium. Germany has backed a ‘precautionary pause,’ and French President Macron recently called for an outright ban at the latest session of COP27 in Egypt.

Public support for a moratorium by leading technology and electric vehicle companies Rivian, Renault, BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo Group, Scandia, Google, and Samsung SDI raises the question of whether a market for these minerals will exist at all.

TMC is also losing investments. Norway’s largest private asset manager Storebrand divested from the company and will exclude them from investments in the future. Storebrand is the ninth bank to exclude investment in deep sea mining.  The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative has urged investors to avoid the industry.

In July 2021, as the company was about to go public, Greenpeace USA, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, and Global Witness filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) stating that the company downplayed the potential environmental impacts of its mining plans and “threatened to mislead the investing public concerning the future profitability of the company.”

Arlo Hemphill, Greenpeace USA Deep Sea Mining campaign lead, said: “In 2021, we sounded the alarm about TMC and the dangers of the deep sea mining industry to our oceans, climate, and communities. Today those concerns have only grown as we learn more about TMC’s questionable relationship with the deep sea mining regulatory body, the International Seabed Authority, which allowed it to gain control of some of the most valuable tracts of the ocean floor. This is in addition to TMC’s concerning neo-colonialist approach that disregards the impact the industry will have on the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific. The planet and communities are already suffering the consequences of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.  The last thing we need is a new extractive industry that would only make things worse.”

Nauru Ocean Resources Incorporated (NORI), a fully owned subsidiary of TMC, which recently concluded eight weeks of test mining in the Clarion Clipperton Zone between México and Hawaii, has said it plans to apply for a deep sea mining license in 2023. The approvals for its test were rushed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) under a non-transparent process that scientists and civil society have questioned.

Deep sea mining involves large machinery sucking up minerals from the deep and transferring them to mining ships, producing a large sediment plume on the sea floor that scientists fear could smother ocean life, threaten people’s way of life, and add to the climate crisis. In addition tailings waste will be discharged in the midwater region.

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, Deep Sea Mining Campaign (DSMC) Coordinator, said: New modeling heralds that should TMC begin commercial operations, significant environmental liabilities are likely to beset TMC, Allseas, and the governments that sponsor their DSM operations in the Pacific ocean. The modeling indicates that pollution discharged by TMC in its Tonga license area would only take three months to reach the waters of Hawaii and Kiribati.”

Greenpeace Aotearoa campaigner James Hita delivers his message to the deep sea mining vessel “Hidden Gem” off the coast of Mexico. (Photo: Greenpeace)

Here is the transcript of James Hita’s radio message to the vessel “Hidden Gem.” I think it is very powerful. You can also watch him deliver it on YouTube here.

Radio Message Transcript :

Kia ora, hola, hello. 

My name is James Hita from Greenpeace and I have a message for you and for the Metals Company.

We are here as guests in these waters to deliver this message to your company, a Canadian company, which is set to cause huge and irreversible harm to the global oceans if you continue to pursue deep sea mining.

While my people, my whānau, my family are back in Aotearoa fighting the daily and persistent impacts of colonisation, I am here today off the coast of Manzanillo, Mexico to deliver this message because deep sea mining threatens the health of the ocean and all of us who rely on it. It threatens our very future.

We know you have just returned from conducting deep sea mining tests in the Pacific, and we call on you and The Metals Company to cease and desist, and to stop pursuing your dangerous project to mine the deep ocean floor immediately.

For too long indigenous peoples have been pushed aside, in the name of neo-colonial extractive industries. Deep sea mining is yet another example of colonial forces exploiting Pacific land and seas, without regard to people’s way of life, food sources and spiritual connection to the ocean. 

We are here to amplify the voices of civil society calling for a halt to this destructive industry before it gains traction. We call on you to abandon your plans to mine the deep.

Deep sea mining is an imminent threat to the ocean and the vast array of wondrous marine life that call it home. It is a threat to my family and a threat to yours. Over half of all life on Earth lives in the ocean which is also one of our biggest allies in the fight against the climate crisis. We will not stand by while deep sea mining companies – like you, The Metals Company seek to plunder the seafloor and decimate biodiversity for profit. 

Scientists have warned that if deep sea mining goes ahead, it could jeopardise food security and livelihoods for communities who depend on the ocean. We see a future where the ocean is protected and thriving. There is no place for deep sea mining in this future.

We know that The Hidden Gem has been test mining in the deep, intending to pull up 3,600 tonnes of minerals from the ocean floor. This activity, by threatening biodiversity and risking carbon disruption, puts ocean health and therefore the health of the planet at risk.

The movement to stop deep sea mining and the companies behind it, is strong and it is growing exponentially. In the past few weeks, the governments of New Zealand, Germany, Chile and France have all spoken out against deep sea mining. 

They join the Governments of Palau, Samoa, Fiji and Micronesia which have backed a moratorium and many more are voicing concerns. 

Civil society in the Pacific and indeed around the globe are standing up for ocean health and calling for a halt to mining the deep, and Greenpeace stands with them.

We are calling on world leaders to be bold and ambitious and call for a halt to deep sea mining to protect the marine environment.

We believe there is no future in deep sea mining and we call on you to stop plundering the seafloor. 

We are persistent and we are courageous. 

Waiho papa moana. Leave the seabed alone. 

By the way, movie fans might recall scenes in “Black Panther II: Wakanda Forever” that touch on the deep sea mining issue (the sought-after metal “Vibranium”). Of course, it is fantasy; but the arts are a great vehicle for serious messaging!

One company, Impossible Metals, has designed a huge robot that delicately picks up those nodules off the ocean floor, apparently without disturbing anything. But as Greenpeace’s Arlo Hemphill notes in this article:

“If deep-sea mining was already an entrenched industry that was doing damage all over the world, and we’ve been doing it for 100 years, and somebody like Impossible Metals came along with these ideas to do it [with less harm], I would probably applaud that. But we’re in a completely different place. The problem hasn’t started yet. And we don’t have to start.”

2 thoughts on ““Stop plundering the sea floor”: Pressure mounts on deep sea mining company

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.