Deep sea mining continues to divide Pacific nations and the International Seabed Authority has been accused of secrecy.
The Authority met in Jamaica this week and a major discussion was held about regulations that will determine where and how the sea floor can be mined.
Nauru and Kiribati have sponsored mining projects, and the Cook Islands approved three exploration licences in February.
On the contrary, Palau, Fiji, Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) recently launched an alliance calling for a moratorium on any seabed development.
There is a strong call for New Zealand to follow suit, and even China has backed a moratorium.
While there is no doubt that wealth is to be found on the seabed or under it, and there are potentially huge economic benefits for nations, anti-mining lobbyists are adamant that deep sea mining is destructive to the fragile ocean environment.
Greenpeace representatives were observers at the Jamaica meeting and have accused the Authority of drafting plans behind closed doors, and shutting out the communities that would be impacted first and hardest if the emerging industry went ahead.
Victor Pickering, a Greenpeace International activist from Fiji said New Zealand should step in and its opinion on the subject would carry weight.
“Deep-sea mining is a highly destructive practice that bulldozes the sea floor, decimating sea life and biodiversity, releasing carbon and causing even more stress on ocean ecosystems that are already on the brink,” said Mr Pickering.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stop deep-sea mining before it starts. We’re calling on the New Zealand Government to support a halt to seabed mining.
“The message from our Pacific neighbours is clear: We need urgent action on deep-sea mining to protect the ocean that connects and nourishes us.”
Pacific nations calling for a moratorium want research to be done before mining can start. They want evidence to say that mining the ocean floor will have zero to negligible impact on the environment around it.
FSM president David Panuelo said the Pacific needed to make a decision that would ensure sustainable oceans for generations to come.
Greenpeace Aotearoa’s campaigner James Hita said scientists had warned that deep-sea mining will likely lead to irreversible biodiversity loss, disturbance of one of the world’s largest carbon sinks and damage to fragile ocean ecosystems, which provides benefits such as medicines and fisheries.
It has been confirmed that New Zealand research centre Niwa is helping deep-sea miner The Metals Company reduce possible damage caused by its planned mining of the Pacific Ocean sea floor, in particular the Clarion Clipperton Zone – an area of international seas to the east of Kiribati.
With the demand for minerals skyrocketing and terrestrial supplies forecasted to run out in the next two decades, mining companies have their eyes fixed on what lies below. The bigger question now is if Pacific nations stay true to their Moana or opt for the greenbacks that will come in droves.