DSCC Interventions – 17/3/23

Date: 17 March 2023

Financial working group

Thank you for giving me the floor.  This intervention is on behalf of Oceans North and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition,  and is to further highlight the issue of environmental externalities raised this morning by  Brazil and  Costa Rica, and yesterday by Jamaica. 

The International Seabed Authority has a duty to ensure that activities in the Area are undertaken for the ‘benefit of humankind as a whole’, with particular consideration given to the interests and needs of developing States. Such an aim requires a thorough and realistic assessment not only of what the international community stands to gain, but also what it stands to lose from deep-sea mining, including accounting for the environmental costs. 

With respect to the claimed gains, the 2022 filing by TMC to the US Securities and Exchange Commission is indicative of the uncertainties that would permeate the industry as a whole. The filing states (and I quote) that “there can be no assurance that any future development activities will result in profitable metal production operations.” [unquote] It further stresses that technology in the sectors that deep-sea minerals would supply is changing rapidly, resulting in fluctuating demand for these minerals, significantly affecting profitability. In addition to this, the current indications are that deep-sea mining in the Area is likely to result in economically insignificant revenues on a global scale.

All this to say: the benefits for humankind as a whole are highly speculative.

As for the costs, science indicates that DSM will result in biodiversity loss, damage to fisheries, disruption of carbon cycling, and diminished marine genetic resources. Such costs have not yet been quantified, but cannot be disregarded. We therefore welcome the Council’s decision in November to commission a study to assess the value of ecosystem services and natural capital of the Area, as well as of the potential environmental costs associated with deep-sea mining, and while we await that study, we hope to see these matters reflected in Council’s deliberations this week, and not simply shelved pending the report. Environmental externalities are of critical importance not just intrinsically, but practically, as their consideration will change the finance and taxation regime. When discussing monetary income from deep sea mining, it must be weighed against the enormous environmental, cultural, and social cost.

Finally, we would like to stress once again that value cannot always be measured in dollars. In our discussions, we ask that delegates also account for the intrinsic value, the cultural value, the existence value of life in the deep, and that they consider not only what is beneficial for humankind as a whole, but for all life on this blue planet.

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