States attending the 27th meeting of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) should call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining and hit the brakes on the rush to adopt mining regulations.
The special meeting, held in Kingston, Jamaica, will run from Monday 21st March to April 1st and will see the ISA pushing for regulations that would enable the imminent start of exploitation in the deep ocean.
Since Nauru, the sponsoring State of would-be deep-sea miner Nauru Offshore Resources Inc (NORI), a subsidiary of The Metals Company (TMC), triggered an obscure legal provision called the ‘two year rule’ last year, the race to mine the deep has accelerated. The ISA hopes to use the first Council meeting of their 27th session to advance the ‘road map’ proposed in December, and progress their draft Regulations, Standards and Guidelines or Rules, Regulations and Procedures (RRPs). This could lead to regulations being agreed as soon as July 2023 at which point the ISA would be ‘open for business’, taking applications for licenses to mine the deep.
“If the RRPs are adopted, States would lose control over the process and the fate of the ocean would lie in the hands of the non-transparent Legal and Technical Commission of the ISA”Duncan Currie, representing the DSCC in Jamaica.
If deep-sea mining were to go ahead in as little as two years, operations would far outrsrip anything seen on land, disturbing and irreversibly destroying habitats, biodiversity, and the fine balance of the fragile deep. This new frontier of industrial extraction proposed by would-be miners could also disturb critical carbon sinks and undermine the health of the ocean, an environment that stands between us and the worst impacts of climate breakdown. A recent study has also highlighted the lack of independent, robust environmental baseline data required in order to even understand, much less manage, the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining.
“If the International Seabed Authority adopts regulations and begins licensing deep-sea mining, there will be no going back” warned Matthew Gianni, who will be representing Earthworks at the meeting. “The only responsible way forward is for governments to agree to a moratorium on deep-sea mining and rethink, review and reform the ISA.”
Civil society, government, policymakers, industry, communities, banks and financial institutions, companies, fishing industry associations and, scientists have repeatedly warned of the risks associated with mining the deep and calls for a stop to the industry continue to grow. At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2021, States and civil society voted overwhelmingly in favor of a moratorium on deep-sea mining (Resolution 122).
The ISA meeting is running concurrently with a pre-meeting in Geneva for this year’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15.
“If strip-mining the deep sea on the scale proposed by would-be miners and the ISA were to go ahead, it would undermine our collective global efforts to take critical action for nature and our ocean at a time when it is needed most”Matthew Gianni.