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Earth Today | Growing opposition to deep-sea mining

Published:Thursday | June 30, 2022 | 12:07 AM
Greenpeace International activists hold a banner to protest deep sea mining at the entrance to the International Seabed Authority in 2019.
Greenpeace International activists hold a banner to protest deep sea mining at the entrance to the International Seabed Authority in 2019.

DIVERSE STAKEHOLDERS, including countries likes Palau, are becoming more vocal in their opposition to deep-sea mining.

Palau recently noted its aversion to deep-sea mining, while reportedly launching a new alliance to prevent the industry from getting off the ground. The revelation was made by Palau’s President Surangel Whipps Jr at the UN Ocean Conference side event co-hosted by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and the World Wildlife Fund.

“If no moratorium is put in place, mining of the deep seas could begin by July 2023, threatening one of the world’s largest carbon sinks as well as fragile ocean ecosystems. Scientists warn that deep-sea mining would result in an irreversible loss of biodiversity and could threaten other benefits to humanity, including future medicines and fisheries for tuna and other species,” said Greenpeace in a June 27 news release on the subject.

Greenpeace is a part of a global network of independent campaigning organisations that use peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions for a green and peaceful future.

According to Arlo Hemphill, oceans lead for Greenpeace, “the wall of silence is finally being shattered as countries begin to speak out against the destructive deep-sea mining industry, which would put the health of the ocean on which we all depend, and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people living in coastal communities, at risk”.

“The International Seabed Authority has been rushing headlong into this risky industry, while ignoring its mandate to protect the oceans. Even stranger, it is preparing to join those who would be tearing up the ocean floor in search of minerals. The deep ocean, one of the world’s largest, most fragile, and important ecosystems, must remain off limits to the mining industry,” he added.

Palau’s announcement comes as several high-level meetings will take place over the next few months to decide the fate of the world’s oceans. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), the body charged with protecting the global seafloor as the ‘common heritage of mankind’, will meet in July and August to continue to develop, adopt, and approve regulations for the nascent industry.

“The meetings follow Nauru’s triggering last year of an obscure legal provision called the two-year rule’ that will open up a vast new frontier of the global ocean commons to large-scale industrial resource extraction by July 2023 with whatever rules are in place at that time,” Greenpeace explained.

The ISA has faced criticisms from civil society and others over its transparency, accountability, and inclusivity practices. The growing political momentum to stop the emerging industry before it starts comes as opposition builds from frontline communities, civil society, scientists, automobile and technology companies, financial institutions, and the fishing industry.