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