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Deep sea mining divisions intensify

Tuvalu has called on the Pacific family to unite and make a well informed decision before starting any type of deep sea extraction.

Nauru is set to become the first Pacific nation to allow extraction of mineral rich nodules from its waters this month. Canadian miner The Metals Company is all set to start the pilot which could eventually be followed by other countries.

The Cook Islands and Kiribati share similar sentiments as Nauru in wanting to better their economies through the nodules which are estimated to be an industry worth US$20 trillion.

The Metals Company chief executive officer Gerard Barron told ABC that the trials start in a few days and will include a robot collector  gathering the nodules from the floor and passing it onto a ship through a pipe.

He said there would be a second ship which will have scientists collecting data and this will go towards making the regulations that will govern the industry.

Mr Barron said there is a need to take the nodules to reduce the carbon emission dilemma.

Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe conceded that the Pacific is indeed divided over the issue but urged leaders to reconsider and make an informed step.

“The Government of Tuvalu stands firm in opposing activities related to Deep Sea Mining and believes there should be the highest standards of environmental and social safeguards in place before this type of activity could ever be considered,” he said.

Tuvalu's foreign minister Simon Kofe clarified Tuvalu's position on deep sea mining. Picture Simon Kofe
Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe conceded that the Pacific is indeed divided over the issue but urged leaders to reconsider and make an informed step. Picture: Simon Kofe

“I note the numerous procedures that were followed toward the approval of the pilot trial, but I feel that the Pacific is quite divided on the issue of Deep Sea Mining right now. Nations have declared or proposed moratoriums, citing the unknown risks of mining to our ocean and its biodiversity.

“The Pacific must come to a united stance on this issue before frequent trials are undertaken. We understand why countries are moving in this direction, but the risks are immense and it is a matter that can affect our entire Pacific family. I believe further consultation should be undertaken among our Pacific nations before these trials begin.”

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has granted permission to Nauru Ocean Resources Incorporated (NORI) to begin exploratory mining in the Clarion Clipperton Zone between Hawai’i and Mexico.

This is a huge blow to many other Pacific nations who have been calling for a moratorium on deep sea mining. NORI is a subsidiary of The Metals Company.

One of the machines that will be used by the Metals Company on the seabed. Picture The Metals Company Twitter
One of the machines that will be used by the Metals Company on the seabed. Picture: The Metals Company Twitter

The initial mining test phase is scheduled to conclude by the end of year, paving the way for “NORI’s application to the ISA for an exploitation contract” as expressed by The Metals Company itself.

Federates States of Micronesia president David Panuelo had stated that he intended to solicit the support of other members of the Pacific Islands Forum to pledge to support and implement a moratorium on deep seabed mining, issuing of new exploitation and new exploration contracts, and the adoption of seabed mining regulations for exploitation, until rigorous and transparent impact assessments have been conducted.

He said such assessments would ensure the environmental, social, cultural, and economic risks of deep seabed mining are comprehensively understood, including how biodiversity loss and species extinction can be prevented.

Recently conducted scientific studies have found marine life at the depths where the nodules are and no study has been done that conclusively showed the impact of such an activity on the ocean floor.

The Metals Company has said that there is a need for deep sea minerals to support the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy, and the pilot will make way for scientific study of the impact and set the ground for the regulations that will be implemented.

Mr Barron said the deep sea situation could not be compared to the removal of rainforest.

Explosive deep sea mining decision – 13 September 2022

The Pacific nation of Nauru, the world’s smallest republic, could start extracting metals from the ocean floor immediately following a landmark decision.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has granted permission to Nauru Oceans Resources Incorporated (NORI) to begin exploratory mining in the Clarion Clipperton Zone between Hawai’i and Mexico.

This is a huge blow to many other Pacific nations who have been calling for a moratorium on deep sea mining. NORI is a subsidiary of The Metals Company.

The initial mining test phase is scheduled to conclude by the end of year, paving the way for “NORI’s application to the ISA for an exploitation contract” as expressed by The Metals Company itself.

Lying at depths of more than 4000 metres are mineral-rich nodules which carry manganese and cobalt, key ingredients in the manufacture of batteries.

It is thought that riches on the ocean floor are worth more than US$20 trillion.

A machine designed to collect nodules from the sea floor. Deep sea mining continues to divide Pacific nations and the International Seabed Authority has been accused of secrecy. Picture: The Metals Company Twitter

Greenpeace Aotearoa said the move signals the beginning of a new and destructive extractive industry that will place profit before people and biodiversity, threatening ocean health and people’s way of life.

Greenpeace Aotearoa seabed mining campaigner James Hita said deep sea mining was now right upon the Pacific’s doorstep and was a threat to each and every person.

“The ocean is home to over 90 per cent of life on earth and is one of our greatest allies in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace will not stand by quietly as deep sea mining companies begin to plunder the seafloor and decimate biodiversity for profit,” he said.

“This latest decision from the ISA will have come as a shock to civil society who were shut out of the decision making process, highlighting a lack of transparency from the Authority.

“The ISA was set up by the United Nations with the purpose of regulating the international seabed, with a mandate to protect it. Instead they are now enabling mining of the critically important international seafloor. The Legal and Technical Commission, that approved this mining pilot, meets entirely behind closed doors, allowing no room for civil society to hold them to account. This mechanism is simply unacceptable.”

A scientific study by the Natural History Museum of London found new species on the ocean floor at the depths where the nodules are.

A machine designed to collect nodules from the sea floor. The Pacific nation of Nauru, the world’s smallest republic, could start extracting metals from the ocean floor immediately following a landmark decision. Picture: Blue Abyss

The scientific community and many Pacific leaders have called for further studies before undertaking any exploration.

Greenpeace is urging world leaders to step in and, at the very least, put in place a moratorium on deep sea mining to protect the ocean.

“For decades, Pacific peoples have been pushed aside and excluded from decision making processes in their own territories. 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,” said Mr Hita.

“Right now people across the Pacific are taking a stand, calling for a halt to deep sea mining. Civil society, environmentalists and a growing alliance of Pacific nations are urging government leaders to stand on the right side of history and stop deep sea mining in its tracks. We must stand in solidarity with our Pacific neighbours and put a lid on this destructive industry to preserve ocean health for future generations.”

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