Pacific representatives call on New Zealand to support global moratorium on deep seabed mining

Date: June 2, 2022

Pacific representatives today called on the New Zealand Government to urgently support an international moratorium on deep seabed mining.

Joey Tau, Fiji-based Deputy Coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) and the Pacific Blue Line is calling for a ban on deep seabed mining in the Pacific region.

“For us here in the Pacific the ocean is an important part of us, and Pacific people are calling on an ethical approach and greater consultation.

“New Zealand has a moral responsibility to the region, to push a high ethical position. We need a collective regional response to say no to deep sea mining.

“We did it for a nuclear free zone and we can do it again for a deep-sea mining free zone. The challenge is whether New Zealand will take a leading role in the region and the Pacific Islands Forum”.

Pelenatita Kara, Manager of the national campaign against Deepsea Mining and Campaign Manager of the Civil Society Forum of Tonga, said that the New Zealand Government needs to protect Pacific Island nations from extractive activities that will harm the moana and coastal resources.

“Tonga is not equipped and not ready to be a sponsoring partner of the metal mining company. We care about the livelihoods of our people and Tonga does not have the cash, expertise or legislation to manage this.

“We know barely anything about deep sea mining and the legal framework we have is not robust enough. The legal liability will fall on the rest of the community to pay. If there are any issues with the mining like pollution, we don’t have the finance to manage it.

“Despite saying “No”, the government is still going ahead because they think there is a potential source of revenue, but the money that might come, will never balance out the environmental degradation and damage to the livelihood of Tongan people”.

However, instead of leading, New Zealand is supporting measures which will allow seabed mining to begin.

New Zealand must acknowledge that adopting regulations will mean the start of seabed mining,” said Duncan Currie, Legal Advisor for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. 

“The rush to develop regulations is extremely misguided, and New Zealand needs to support Pacific nations concerned with the health of the Pacific Ocean which is so critical to their livelihoods and culture and support a moratorium on deep seabed mining.”

The financial benefits for individual countries are also not what they are made out to be. Nauru has agreed not to charge corporate income tax, Papua New Guinea lost US$120M in the seabed mining venture they embarked on with Solwara I, and Odyssey is suing Mexico for US$3.5 billion for not granting a seabed mining consent.

Teanau Tuiono, Green MP, and member of the Pacific Parliamentarians’ Alliance on Deep Sea Mining acknowledged that we are in the middle of a climate and biodiversity crisis.

“No one should have a permit to make a mess of the ocean floor, especially given the context we are living in. 

“We have a long history of using the Pacific as a place where we go and take things, it’s also seen as a place where we can get cheap labour, and that is New Zealand’s history of having an exploitative role in the Pacific.

“We need proper consultation with Pacific communities, and we need to support indigenous and environmental leadership in the Pacific. This is untested science and it does not make any sense”.

Phil McCabe, the Pacific Regional Lead on deep sea mining for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition summed up the three key areas of concern. 

“We’re seeing three key areas of concern being expressed across wide ranging groups that are calling for a moratorium: lack of scientific knowledge, unavoidable environmental harm and the urgent need for reform of the regulating body, the International Seabed Authority (ISA). This last one, urgent reform of the ISA is an action that leaders can tangibly take immediate action on.”

James Hita of Greenpeace of Aotearoa also launched this petition calling on the New Zealand Government to take a strong stand against deep sea mining in the Pacific, and announce New Zealand’s support for a global moratorium.

In March 2022, the Pacific Elders’ Voice, comprising  former Heads of State and high level leaders across the region, called for a halt to seabed mining. Concerns include the environmental, social and cultural impacts, the lack of scientific and technical information, and a lack of regulatory capacity on processes for deep-sea mining.

“It is a fact that most of the Pacific Island countries contemplating seabed mining do not have the capacity to effectively monitor such mining operations in which they may be involved.”

The Pacific Elders’ Voice letter also states that the ocean floor holds great “significance and spirituality” for Pacific people and that this should be considered should seabed mining be contemplated.

In April 2022 the Pacific Parliamentarians Alliance on Deep Sea Mining, made up of Parliamentarians from 10 jurisdictions across the Pacific region, supported “the growing international call for a moratorium on deep sea mining in line with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to scientifically assess whether deep sea mining can be done in a way that avoids harm to ocean ecosystems, recognising the interconnectedness of these ecosystems beyond national jurisdictions.”

The Parliamentarians also said,

“As Pacific peoples, the ocean is central to life and wellbeing. From it we draw our identity, affirm our existence and spirituality, and cultivate and sustain our relationships. In it, we find our place in ecology. Caring for the ocean is a responsibility that also sustains and perpetuates us. This appreciation of the ocean is embedded in the values and cultural traditions handed down to us through generations of custodians.” 

This issue was discussed at a webinar which can be viewed via this link.

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