Seabed regulator accused of deciding deep sea’s future ‘behind closed doors’

Date: April 1, 2022

Source: The Guardian

Author: Karen McVeigh

The UN-affiliated organisation that oversees deep-sea mining, a controversial new industry, has been accused of failings of transparency after an independent body responsible for reporting on negotiations was kicked out.

Scientists have warned that the damage to ecosystems from mining nickel, cobalt and other metals on the deep-seabed would be “dangerous”, “reckless” and “irreversible”. One estimate suggests that 90% of the deep-sea species that researchers encounter are new to science.

As opposition to deep-sea mining grows, the ISA is facing resistance over its rush to develop a roadmap to be adopted before 9 July 2023.

Germany and environmentalists also expressed concern over a lack of transparency by the ISA’s legal and technical commission (LTC), a body charged with developing standards and guidelines for the mining code, which meets behind closed doors.

Duncan Currie, an international lawyer with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, which is tracking the negotiations, said he was “very concerned” by the various failures of transparency.

Currie wants to see a moratorium on deep-sea mining, akin to that set up by the Antarctic protocol. “The whole area of deep-sea mining is a political, scientific and political minefield. There should be a moratorium put in place.”

Greenpeace, an observer at the talks, called for reform of the ISA’s secretariat, which it accused of bias towards allowing mining to take place, to the detriment of the environment.

“There are a herd of elephants in the room,” said Arlo Hemphill, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace USA. “There’s not enough time to get it right, and there is not the science to get it right.”

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