At the stroke of a pen, this decision will open up an area larger than Mexico to commercial seabed mining - the single most extractive decision in our planet’s history. This stands in direct conflict with international momentum to protect our planet - from negotiating a groundbreaking High Seas Biodiversity treaty to setting aside protected areas through the Convention on Biodiversity.
This is why we are calling on forward-thinking leaders to be on the right side of history and declare a Moratorium on Commercial International Seabed Mining. Over 1,000 respected scientists and nearly 800,000 concerned individuals already have expressed their concern and now we need influential government leaders to do the same.
In addition, we need to correct ISA’s course from one of privatizing the oceans for the benefit of a few corporate and state interests, to one that benefits all of mankind - current
generations and future. For this reason, we call on you to support new leadership in the ISA’s July 2020 election - one that will prioritize science, equality, and our shared ocean. In the words of the great, Jacques Cousteau ‘the sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope.’
INTERNATIONAL SEABED MINING: A BRIEFING
Credit: Nautilus Minerals, Deep Sea Mining Machines
1 million square kilometers of deep ocean, roughly the size of Mexico, stands to be affected by deep sea mining. In the Pacific specifically, there is major scientific concern around deep sea sediment ‘plumes’ or dust storms that can suffocate marine life on a large scale. Where experimental Seabed Mining was carried out in Peru, over 40 years later over 80% of life has not yet returned.
Thus far only 29 companies and even fewer countries are set to benefit financially from seabed mining. This creates a game of winners and losers, where entire geographies such as Africa stand to gain little, while the consequences will be felt by all.
Every Hydrothermal Vent in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean has been zoned for seabed mining. We only discovered life in hydrothermal vents 40 years ago and they remain understudied and poorly understood. This makes it impossible to protect these key marine ecosystems from the long-term effects of deep sea mining.
The International Seabed Authority lacks transparency, has prioritized politics over science, and is not equipped to monitor seabed mining operations. In the Pacific Ocean, the creation of Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEI) reflect policy boxes, rather than priority areas demanding environmental protection. Industry self-regulation hasn’t worked in the past, and we shouldn’t rely on it for the future.
British Secretary General Michael Lodge, supported by the UK in the 2016 Election, serves as the Secretary General of the ISA and is up for re-election in summer 2020 - the same time as the vote to open up deep sea mining. During his tenure, US companies, such as Lockheed Martin have used UK support to advance their interests in Seabed Mining. It is time for transparent leadership within the ISA.
Paris-based UNESCO-IOC is leading the Decade of Ocean Science when the deep sea needs it most. Let us use this time to understand the deep sea’s potential before it is too late.
Seabed Mining Company claims are false: green technology advances do not require deep sea mining. Currently, less than 1% of rare-earth elements are recycled and more rare-earth metals sit in landfills as electronic waste than in all known global reserves. We need to explore advances in recycling, the circular economy, and technology before we extract unnecessarily.
Deep Sea Mining: Learn the Facts
Licensed areas in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans:
(as of January 2020)
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Credit: Nautilus Minerals
'Casper octopod under threat from deep sea mining'
Scientists in 2016 discovered a new species of octopus that lays its eggs on the stalks of sponges attached to polymetallic nodules on the seabed. (NOAA)
Hydrothermal vents form at locations where seawater meets magma.
A venting black smoker emits jets of particle-laden fluids. The particles are predominantly very fine-grained sulfide minerals formed when the hot hydrothermal fluids mix with near-freezing seawater. These minerals solidify as they cool, forming chimney-like structures. “Black smokers” are chimneys formed from deposits of iron sulfide, which is black. “White smokers” are chimneys formed from deposits of barium, calcium, and silicon, which are white.
In July 2020, the UN’s International Seabed Authority (ISA) will vote on whether or not to allow commercial international seabed mining to begin in the High Seas.
The fragile seabed will be inevitably destroyed including newly discovered and rare sea-life. We do not know the implications for the ocean that are already challenged by global warming, microplastics, overfishing and oil spills.
Why are we about to lose our seabeds and sea life? Simply for the profit for a handful of mining companies.
On July 20th 2020, a small agency of the United Nations, the ISA, will vote to allow commercial seabed mining. We must raise our voices to stop them.