DSCC Interventions – 26/7/23

Date: 27 July 2023

Item 8. a. Annual Report of the Secretary General (ISBA/28/A/2) I

Mr President, State delegates, fellow observers,

This intervention is on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Oceans North, OceanCare, The Ocean Foundation, WWF, Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace, Sustainable Ocean Alliance

We thank the Secretary-General for his report.

Two years ago member States of the ISA were delivered an ultimatum: adopt a mining code by July 2023 or be faced with the potential of unregulated mining. In either case, the demand was to start deep-sea mining. But the ultimatum has not worked out. The mining code is far from developed, and a majority of States in the Council have stated their opposition to mining in the absence of regulations. 

The pressure has brought to the forefront a fundamental question: Is the international community of States prepared to unleash deep-sea mining, one of the largest and most damaging extractive operations in ocean history, in the middle of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, in contradiction to their environmental obligations and commitments? 

There is no social licence for deep sea mining – scientists, global financial institutions & corporations, the fishing industry, Indigenous groups, and concerned citizens across the world are saying no to deep-sea mining. Already over 20 governments are calling for a moratorium or precautionary pause; and others, like Brazil, for a pause of at least 10 years. This requires the consideration of the full ISA membership, here at the Assembly. It is an issue of transparency, equity, sustainability, and environmental justice. 

We are concerned by attempts to fast-track the mining code. 

How can a mining code, developed in a rush and in a state of limited scientific knowledge, ensure the effective protection of the marine environment? In his remarks to the Opening of CBD COP15- leading to the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework- the United Nations Secretary General, said that “ecosystems have become playthings of profit”, and that “human activities are laying waste to once-thriving oceans”. Scientists warn that the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining, including loss of biodiversity, would be large-scale, severe, and irreversible on human timescales. 

And importantly, how can mining under these conditions possibly serve humankind as a whole? How can we not embrace the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: that mining should not go ahead before adequate safeguards exist to ensure such activities can be carried out in a way that respects, protects, and fulfils human rights, including the right of future generations to live in a healthy environment. What benefit can be greater than that?

Instead of a roadmap for a mining code we suggest that there should be a roadmap to build alignment around the conditions and duration of a moratorium or pause. Such a pause should account for the need to build equity and capacity, and empower the sharing of long term benefits from the deep sea rather than short term gains from damaging mineral exploitation. To uphold the ISA’s mandate to effectively protect the marine environment from harm, and to serve humankind as a whole today and in the future, the responsible thing to do is to push the brakes on deep-sea mining, before it is too late. We urge all States to enable/ensure an open and fruitful discussion at this Assembly meeting.

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