- We would like to begin by thanking and congratulating Finland and Vanuatu, the two latest countries to join the group of States calling for the suspension of deep-sea mining activities. We would also particularly like to celebrate Palau, who for the first time, brought their pioneering moratorium position to the floor of the ISA on Friday, and also France for their initiative of the joint call to action announced this morning. Our thanks to all the other countries in the ever-growing group sending the strong political signals that are required at this critical stage. We stand beside you.
- Dear delegates, as country representatives, you are charged with making decisions on behalf of humankind as a whole. But have you asked the populations you represent what they think about deep-sea mining? Hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe are signing petitions against deep-sea mining, indigenous leaders and youth groups are speaking out loud and clear, scientists are raising alarm, corporates are stepping back. They do not consent. We ask you to keep that in mind as you proceed with the important decisions you are making at the ISA on our behalf.
- In the presentation by The Metals Company last week, we saw images of the fabulous creatures of the deep examined during the exploration phase. There is so much beauty in the deepest reaches of our earth. But these creatures are not just pictures on a screen – they are the inhabitants of the very area that is penned for destruction. But there’s still so much we don’t know. We must allow time to establish comprehensive scientific understanding and legitimate processes, to ensure that we make the right decisions on behalf not only of humankind, but of all-kind.
- With a voting structure that is heavily weighted in favour of Plans of Work being granted if the LTC issues a recommendation, it’s imperative that States remain in control of the process – any other scenario is simply too risky and runs counter to States’ obligations to effectively protect the marine environment and prevent damage to the flora and fauna. States cannot leave these decisions in the hands of an LTC that meets behind closed-doors, particularly when we have already seen an example of the lack of due process of this organ when the NORI test mine was granted approval last year.
- Numerous states have expressed the opinion that there should be no exploitation in absence of regulations, but there should also be no regulations in the absence of independent science and the guaranteed protection of the marine environment. We remind delegates that the regulations you are discussing here would pertain not only to polymetallic nodules in the CCZ, but to all other deep-sea environments marked for extractive activities. We cannot accept a scenario where mining could proceed in circumstances steeped in uncertainty – likely to inflict everlasting damage. For this reason, we urge you to seek ambitious solutions that ensure there is no risk of the LTC providing a positive recommendation of an application to mine. Anything less would contravene States’ duties under UNCLOS to protect the marine environment.
- Thank you.
International Seabed Authority
ISA negotiations enter their third week as the world says “no” to the largest mining operation in human history
This week at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, negotiations to agree a ‘mining code’ get into their third week at the Authority’s 28th Council meeting. If adopted, the mining code would give destructive deep-sea mining the go ahead, opening our ocean to the largest mining operation humanity has ever seen. The negotiations have faced increased scrutiny in the face of the multiple risks surrounding the industry, and a greater number of observer organisations present than previously seen, testament to the growing chorus of voices across society calling for a stop. The DSCC are present in Kingston for the meeting, running from the 16th – 31st March.
Continue reading ISA negotiations enter their third week as the world says “no” to the largest mining operation in human history
- We do not yet know enough about the deep seabed, but many of us here, as well as over 700 scientists, have endorsed the view that we should not be so cavalier about moving forward effectively. We are asking all of us as members of this esteemed body to resist the siren song of industry, which promises millions of quick dollars, but at the risk and expense of our environment, as well as aspects of intergenerational equity and the rights of our future generations.
- We view that the 2 year rule does not require that the LTC make a recommendation and the Council automatically approve a Plan of Work.
- The republic of Vanuatu is committed to UNCLOS Article 145 and we will continue to engage in negotiations.
- As SIDS – we are at the frontlines of climate change – we are concerned about additional pressures. Vanuatu is one of the most vulnerable countries of the world.
- We join the growing calls for a precautionary pause and align with member States making this call. There are different terms that we use precautionary pause or moratorium that we are using in this context – what matters most is the actions not the words.
- Science shows that DSM will cause irreversible damage to the unique biodiversity of the deep sea. It would go beyond harming the seabed. Given the irreversible harm of DSM on the ocean, we have the following priorities:
- 1) Support growing calls for pause on DSM
- 2) RRPs should not be adopted until we have sufficient scientific information until we can be guaranteed no biodiversity loss
- 3) Ask countries to not grant any contracts, as this would be contrary to our international commitments.
- We would like to present preliminary views and general position about the two year rule, for lack of robust scientific information on deep sea ecosystems and biodiversity and the considerable and irreversible, my delegation aligns with member states that express the views the rules, regulations and procedures should not be adopted until we have robust scientific information about biodiversity and impacts.
- RRPs should not be adopted until it can be guaranteed that there will be no loss of biodiversity and no harm to marine environment.
- Vanuatu officially joins growing international call for precautionary pause on deep-sea mining to protect our ocean and aligns with members states of ISA making this call.
- We encourage our fellow pacific states who expressed interest in DSM to step back from the brink and join us in a precautionary approach as a region and as a world.
Environment working group
Bula Madam facilitator and delegates,
Firstly, Madam Facilitator, we are very happy to see you back in the facilitation role.
This is a very important working group and we look forward to the discussion
Madam Facilitator, delegations would have seen that there a growing number of civil society observers here, including some indigenous representatives from the Pacific area who have journeyed great distances. We were hoping there would be an opportunity for them to address this working group. We are talking about stakeholder participation and they would have left by Monday. It would only take perhaps 10 minutes. I think delegates will find their participation helpful.
But if that is not possible, we have a suggestion to see if it gains your approval, and that would be after the session is closed at 1 oclock, the indigenous representatives be able to speak for perhaps 10 minutes, should delegates who are able to stay here for that segment. We hope that the interpreters will indulge us.
Delivered by – Hinano Murphy
Thank you Madam Facilitator, Im speaking on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.
Kia Orana, I am Teurumereariki a Teavai Murphy from French Polynesia (…) I am hear today to represent the thousands of voices to ban mining exploitation in the high seas. This includes the voice of 33 different countries and 56 different indigenous groups.
For millennia our people have lived in a relationship with the natural world that is defined by respect, gratitude, responsibility, and love. Our genealogies, woven across space and time, connect us physically and spiritually to animals and plants from the highest mountains to the deepest ocean.
Cultures across the Pacific consider the ocean to be sacred space for creation, a provider, an ancestor, and a link to places and people across the horizon. We would no more harm the ocean than we would a member of our family. And as with our family, we depend on each other for survival.
Western culture’s relationship with natural ecosystems of land, and sea and sky have proven to be deeply harmful for the only place we know as home, planet Earth. The ocean’s health, people, and natural ecosystems are already reeling from pollution, overfishing, acidification and extreme weather events. These problems need serious attention.
With a ban on deep-sea mining, however, we see the chance to stop the needless damage before it starts. There is ample evidence that deep-sea mining will cause irreversible harm to our ocean. The arguments in favor of deep-sea mining, produced only by those that stand to profit from it, have been shown to be false. There is no reason to disturb the tranquil and life-supporting depths of our oceans, causing harm that will last forever, for the short-term economic gain of a very few.
We refuse to allow any further harm to our sacred ocean. We refuse to further damage the intricate web of life that we are part of and depend on for our survival. We refuse to allow governments and corporations to sell out the future of our children and life on our planet.
We call on the governments of the world and on the International Seabed Authority to enact a ban on deep-sea mining effective immediately. Our ocean and our lives depend on it.
We speak on behalf of DSCC and WWF on this part of the intervention on the stakeholder consultation.
We welcome the initiative of the informal group discussing Standardization of Stakeholder consultation, and, as Stakeholders ourselves, we would be glad to be involved in such discussions in the future in order to support this important effort.
We would like to take this opportunity to ask that States take this one step further and provide not only for consultation but also public participation which goes further than consultation. For example, in any environmental impact assessment, stakeholders should have the opportunity to introduce independent scientific advice and advisers to contribute to the EIA process. When we are contributing here in Council, this is public participation, not consultation.
It is worthwhile noting that the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters rests on three pillars: access to information, public participation, and access to justice. All three go hand in hand: the information pillar to ensure that the public can participate in an informed fashion, and the access to justice pillar to ensure that participation happens in reality and not just on paper. It can be traced back to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.
Public participation also entails access to relevant documents, the ability to speak, to circulate written documents, including reasonable timeframes to participate effectively. In brief, it involves effective notice, adequate information, proper procedures, and appropriately taking account of the outcome of the public participation.
It is far more than just commenting, and, under Article 6 para. 7 of the Aarhus Convention, requires allowing the public to submit, in writing or, as appropriate, at a public hearing or inquiry with the applicant, any comments, information, analyses or opinions that it considers relevant to the proposed activity.
So in the context of the ISA, this means not just commenting on documents on a website, but meaningfully participating in the Legal and Technical Commission, the Council or any other body.
Regarding the identification of Stakeholders to be directly notified of participatory processes, firstly we urge the systemic involvement of independent scientists, indigenous people, coastal communities, youth, and environmental groups. We agree it would be useful to have a list of types of Stakeholders that should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, with contact information. We suggest that Stakeholders themselves should be invited to contribute to these lists.
In order to ensure that this is not left as ‘Guidance’ alone, we would urge a definition of ‘key Stakeholders’ in the regulations, but one that remains sufficiently broad to allow for the rapidly growing and evolving interest in the common heritage of humankind.
Vinaka Madam Facilitator
This intervention by DSCC is also on behalf of WWF, Oceans North and TBA 21.
I think our objections are quite specific.
Consistent with your comment at the outset, and as highlighted by Germany and the Netherlands, it is highly relevant that the BBNJ Agreement on marine biodiversity has been concluded. Finally, a framework and mandate on the conservation of marine biodiversity – an issue of core relevance and importance to all of us – has been agreed by consensus of all States.
Its authoritative Principles and Approaches should be followed by the ISA parties, most of whom we presume will be party to the BBNJ Agreement, including in para 1(a)(i) the Precautionary principle: We thank the Netherlands for drawing our attention to the BBNJ language which includes “as appropriate” and would suggest that with so much uncertainty, the precautionary principle, rather than approach, certainly is appropriate here.
We also highlight an approach that builds ecosystem resilience, including to adverse effects of climate change and ocean acidification, and also maintains and restores ecosystem integrity, including the carbon cycling services that underpin the ocean’s role in climate; the use of the best available science and scientific information; an integrated approach to ocean management; and the use of relevant traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
Para 1(a)(iii) lacks a reference to independent and peer reviewed science as well as traditional knowledge. The best available science will not be obtained if stakeholders do not have the opportunity to bring forward independent scientific information.
In Para 1(a)(v) our indigenous colleagues remind us of the importance of underwater cultural environment, as so eloquently expressed by the kupuna (or native Hawaiian elder) this morning.
Paragraph (b) has no reference to ensuring no loss of biodiversity.
With respect to Paragraph (c ) we note that mitigation is not sufficient; Article 145 requires that effective protection for the marine environment from harmful effects is ensured. Merely mitigating harm is not enough, moreover, mitigation, which is noted by many scientists as not being adequate or even meaningful, would require substantial understanding of the extent of the harm, including a baseline, which we do not have.
Paragraph (c)should not include reference to restoration and offset. We support DOSI’s comments and those of the United States in this regard.
In all of DR 44 there is no reference to cumulative impacts, including the impacts of climate change and noise, and the need to prevent environmental damage not only in areas directly impacted but in all affected areas.
Following international commitments such as the global biodiversity framework, there must be an imperative to “Ensure there is no loss of biodiversity, damage to the flora and fauna of the marine environment, or degradation of ecosystems and ecosystem services.”
This is key to implementing Arts 145 and 194(5) and to ensuring consistency with the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 14, Target 2, as well as protecting biodiversity in the face of the growing biodiversity crisis.
We deliver this intervention on behalf of both the DSCC, oceans North and WWF.
Regarding the chapeau of Para (1), we join Germany in their suggestion that the threshold of ‘serious harm’ to the marine environment is too high. Article 145 requires the prevention of damage to the flora and fauna. The obligation should therefore be ‘no harm’. Deep-sea mining cannot go ahead if we can’t guarantee that there will be no biodiversity loss. The recently concluded BBNJ Agreement (and I quote) “recognises the need to address, in a coherent and cooperative manner, biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean”.
States cannot allow biodiversity loss to occur under ISA regulations when there is a recognized and overwhelming need to halt and reverse the phenomenon.
We suggest that the term “Compensation’ for harm to the marine environment should be deleted from para 1(c), as ‘Compensation’ is not featured in the mitigation hierarchy so should equally not feature here. The notion of compensation essentially provides that you can always pay your way out of obligations to protect the marine environment, thereby manifesting a permissive attitude toward environmental damage that cannot be accepted in the 21st century.
Collaboration with the BBNJ agreement needs to be provided for under BBNJ Article 23 paragraph 2, and the BBNJ Agreement in Part IV extensively addresses environmental impact assessments. These EIA procedures need to be completely revised to take into account and reflect the BBNJ provisions, which must be seen as best practice and enjoying widespread support.
Serious concerns of pro-mining agenda of the International Seabed Authority reported in New York Times
Deep Sea Conservation Coalition Reaction
An article published yesterday (19 March) in the New York Times highlights concerns by International Seabed Authority (ISA) State delegates surrounding a lack of impartiality of the ISA’s Secretary General. The article points to the pro-mining agenda of the ISA Secretary General – the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) calls for urgent reform of the Authority.
Take a look at key statements from ISA Member States below:
Federated States of Micronesia
Thank you Mr. President and good morning delegates. We recognise the desire to move on but we hope the delegates will indulge us for a few minutes more – we would like to thank the Federated States of Micronesia and Belgium for supporting our active participation in this conversation.
I speak on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and our 100 plus member organisations, many of whom sit alongside us today. We’d like to start by extending our thanks to the host State of Jamaica and ISA Sec staff for your kind hospitality.
We are only 4 months away from potentially green-lighting deep-seabed mining under the two-year rule, in spite of significant environmental concerns, vast gaps in knowledge and understanding of deep-sea ecosystems, and widespread resistance to the industry from a growing spectrum of stakeholders.
We are concerned that the time currently allocated to the agenda item pertaining to the two-year rule (less than half a day on Friday 24 March) will be insufficient to allow for the multilateral process to take effect, and reflects a disconnect between the agenda and the growing global concern around the accelerated push toward mining the deep. The conclusion of the BBNJ Agreement on marine biodiversity is very significant for the ISA. The international community has spoken: we cannot destroy marine biodiversity and must respect and preserve the common heritage of humankind. We therefore respectfully request that the appropriate adjustments are made to the Programme of Work, to allow at least one full day for the discussion.
While DSM is certainly a complex issue, it is grounded in a simple reality: deep-sea mining will destroy living ecosystems and marine biodiversity. It’s easy to lose sight of that when we’re sitting in a conference centre or an office day after day. I’m sure many of you have seen the excellent article by deep-sea biologist, Diva Amon, published in the New York Times this week. As you know, Dr. Amon is one of the few people involved in these discussions who’s witnessed the life of the deep with her own eyes, who’s been amongst it. And she describes something quite magical: a trove of biodiversity composed of strange and wonderful creatures: tentacled, luminous, ancient. We would do well to keep the images of these creatures in mind as we discuss the prospect of their destruction.
And all for what? The market is moving away from the metals found on the deep-sea floor. Electric vehicle manufacturers including Chinese manufacturer BYD and Tesla, for example, are already using a battery that contains no nickel or cobalt. Alongside these developments, recent studies show that through investment in the circular economy and recycling technologies, demand for these metals can be reduced by 58%. The narrative that deep-sea metals are needed for the energy transition is, therefore, debatable.
All this raises the question: is a radical new extractive industry delving into the deepest reaches of our world something that humankind as a whole can accept? The ever-growing resistance from scientists, civil society, youth, media, the European Parliament, the IUCN and States would suggest that the answer is “no”.
Media release: As the International Seabed Authority continue the rush to mine the deep ocean, resistance grows
As the 28th meeting of the ISA Council gets underway, the DSCC call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, as well as reform of the Authority.
The deliberations of this Council meeting, while our governments meet in Egypt to tackle the climate crisis, have shown clearly that humanity has arrived at a crossroads.
What has brought us here is a broken relationship with nature and a system that puts profit before sustainability, that perpetuates our dependence on finite resources, damages the environment, and causes scarcity, inequity and insecurity in our societies. Among those benefiting from this system are corporations, such as oil and gas companies, that even today continue to accumulate wealth while people and communities are left in crisis. The UN Secretary General was speaking for scientists, youth and citizens across the world when he said in his opening remarks at the UNFCCC COP27 that we are on “a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.
In this Council meeting, “good faith” is equated to forging ahead on a pathway we know is perilous, by empowering mining corporations to strip mine the last remaining pristine areas of our planet for profit. By letting deep-sea mining happen, possibly as soon as next year, our generation is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, knowing well that the consequences will be felt by those to come.
But as we stand together at this crossroads, we know there is another path. It has been shown to us by millions of people worldwide who care deeply about the ocean, and a growing number of States namely Palau, Fiji, Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Costa Rica, Chile, Spain, Ecuador, New Zealand, Germany, Panama and France who want to hit the brakes on deep-sea mining.
Rather than being remembered as the generation that delivered the final blow to our planet by unleashing a new industry which could have wide-ranging and even catastrophic impacts, wiping out fragile habitats and species and disturbing the ocean carbon cycle1, we ask governments to put sustainability and intergenerational equity first.
To those States not yet onboard we say this: Take the foot off the accelerator and hit the brakes. We urge you to listen to the calls for precaution and protection and come at the next Council meeting ready to walk alongside those who are resisting deep-sea mining, for the benefit of humankind and in ‘good faith’ towards future generations. A deep-sea mining moratorium is the way forward.
1 Undisturbed: The deep ocean’s vital role in safeguarding us from crisis, is a new report by scientists from the Benioff Ocean Initiative, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, highlighting the important role of the deep ocean in mitigating climate change and warning of the serious threats the deep sea faces.