Pacific nations move to ban deep sea mining

More is needed from nations to safeguard the Pacific from deep sea mining, said the Pacific Parliamentarians Alliance on Deep Sea Mining (PPADSM).

However, there is a general consensus in most nations that deep sea mining should be banned across the region.

Deep sea mining interest in the Pacific has been growing especially with scientific findings claiming that a number of minerals can be found on the seabed.

So far very little exploration has been done to confirm what lies on the seafloor in the trenches of the Pacific Ocean.

Deep sea mining awareness. Picture: UNDP

The Alliance welcomed the commitments made at the Our Ocean Conference in Palau, towards protecting and restoring the health of our ocean.

The 2022 conference closed with 410 commitments worth $16.35 billion across the six issue areas of the conference.

The PPADSM and members acknowledged announcements from the Fiji government and two philanthropic organisations in support of various
efforts to ensure that the Pacific Ocean is safeguarded from deep seabed mining.

New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, said deep sea mining developments at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) continue to be a key interest, but he remained cautious.

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“Deep sea mining has the potential to cause significant harm to the marine environment and we in Aotearoa New Zealand is actively engaged in negotiations to ensure that deep sea mining cannot proceed without robust environmental protection in place,” he said.

Green Party Member of Parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand, Teanau Tuiono said that Aotearoa is also part of the Pacific and the NZ Government must support the calls of iwi and hapū, environmental and community organisations to stop seabed mining in the South Taranaki Bight.

“I acknowledge ancestral connections between tangata whenua here and tagata moana across the Pacific. The moana (ocean) is the foundation of shared indigenous cultural and historical identities, it links communities here in Aotearoa to island homelands across the Pacific.

Concerns are growing in the region about deep sea mining. Picture: SPREP

The exploitation of the ocean holds much responsibility for the realities of many Pacific Islands societies today; realities that serve to shrink our options and entice our countries to repeat unsustainable patterns of economic development,” said Tuiono.

Fiji reaffirmed its position to ban deep sea mining at the conference, declaring that mining the ocean’s floors will lead to permanent and irreparable impacts. The PPADSM supports the statement of Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, that “we cannot destroy what we do not understand” and that there is renewed momentum to oppose deep sea mining from across the region – and we must build on it.

“We welcome Fiji’s leadership on this issue. It is vital for Pacific Island nations to make a strong stand against this exploitative industry that has the potential to cause substantial harm to our Ocean,” said PPADSM Chair, Ralph Regenvanu.

PPADSM also welcomed the decision by the Tuvalu Government to rescind its plans to advance proposals for deep sea mining.

Tuvalu’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Kofe said the challenge with Tuvalu is the Seabed Minerals Act which was passed by the previous government, which allows mining companies to apply to Tuvalu. But he added that his government is not in support and came to the decision of revoking its sponsorship of Circular Metals Ltd.

Greenpeace demonstration on deep sea mining. Picture: Greenpeace

“We are pleased to know that Tuvalu will revoke its sponsorship of mining company Circular Metals, and we remain ready to assist Tuvalu,” said Regenvanu.

He added that political momentum is growing in the region on DSM with the launch of a new high-level regional political alliance against this destructive industry – the Pacific Parliamentarians Alliance on DSM.

“We the PPADSM collective is also appealing to Pacific leaders, parliamentarians, legislators, senators, and governors to join this Pacific momentum to protect our ocean.”

“The establishment of the Alliance is crucial and will put pressure on individual states and mining companies that have intentions of moving ahead with proposals on DSM in the Pacific Ocean,” Regenvanu said.

“The PPADSM believes that as Pacific islanders, it’s our moral obligation to care for our Ocean. It sustains us and gives us our identity. We must oppose all attempts that are made to advance deep sea mining in our region.”

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