Many credible global organizations - and almost all deep ocean scientists - are standing up against seabed mining. Here are the organizations calling for, at minimum, a ten year moratorium or an outright ban on seabed mining.
Statement by Dr. Sylvia Earle for Ocean Elders and Mission Blue
The bottom line being that not enough is known about the nature of the deep sea areas targeted for mining to justify proceeding with exploitation. Widespread disinformation and misleading marketing messages about the need for materials to support "green" technologies are confusing decision makers and the public at large. There should be great incentive for industries reliant on "unobtanium" to find alternatives that do not, literally, cost the earth.
A strongly worded resolution for a ten year moratorium on exploitation licenses will be introduced at the IUCN Congress in June in Marseille. Within ten years, methods of recovering lithium, nickel, cobalt and other materials from products now in use ("circular economy") will have improved, and alternate materials for constructing batteries and other products are expected to be widely available. Within ten years, "rare earth minerals" may be understood to be NOT rare, and that land-based sources of cobalt and other metals -- even if not recycled -- are sufficient to cover current and growing uses until new technologies displace those now in fashion. By 2030, the extraordinary nature of the High Seas near the surface, within the water column, and the seafloor below, will be more widely known and appreciated by the public and by governments.
Non-destructive exploration is underway by independent (non-mining) initiatives, particularly by scientists at the University of Hawaii and several European institutions. They are reporting extremely high diversity. Ninety per cent or so of the thousands of species found are new to science, information that counters propaganda from mining interests that the deep sea is barren and monotonous. There is -- and should be -- great interest in the bacteria and archaea, microbes involved in chemosynthesis as well being the agents responsible for the formation of the nodules. Exploration of the deep sea must proceed with microscopes and laboratories, not bulldozers and refineries, to understand their true importance to planetary - and human - security and prosperity.
While enthusiasm is growing to plant a trillion trees to combat climate change, trillions of organisms in the deep sea are in the cross-hairs of deliberate annihilation.
There is no way to "sustainably" mine manganese nodules that have taken millions of years to form, together with diverse communities of organisms that are interlaced with the minerals. The nodules themselves are not dead stones, but rather are "living rocks", rich with the microbes that are responsible for drawing materials from the surrounding seawater. They typically form around something organic; a bit of bone, a shark's tooth, or a fragment of shell. At a time when biodiversity loss is a matter of widespread concern, it is absurd to initiate operations that will eliminate not just species but entire ecosystems and all of the inherent value they contain. Concern about lost of biological/medical/scientific/commercial "value" is one measure, but there are also moral and ethical reasons why these ancient systems should be protected from destruction.
There is profound lack of awareness and therefore lack of concern among people generally and world leaders particularly who will be asked to give the go-ahead to mining this year.
There should be profound concern about the way the International Seabed Authority has conducted the issuing of exploration -- and soon, exploitation -- permits. Deliberations are opaque to the public and non-industry interests. Meetings are secret and industry-driven. The largest land-grab in history is underway and most people know nothing about it.
An awareness campaign is needed to celebrate the unique diversity of life in the High Seas, from the surface to the bottom, and their importance in shaping basic planetary processes.
Leaders who will determine the fate of the deep sea must be informed about the consequences of destructive mining operations and moved to put a ten year moratorium in place, and the public must be motivated to support this.
Protection of the global commons, the High Seas, from top to bottom, by eliminating industrial, subsidized fishing with a ten year (or permanent) moratorium on industrial deep sea mining, would safeguard more than half of the living world. If enacted, 2020 could mark the turning point from planetary decline to leading an era of recovery and stability. Imagine the consequences if we do not.
Sustainable Ocean Alliance