Deep-sea mining delayed amidst environmental opposition

Deep-sea mining

The expected commencement of industrial-scale deep-sea mining for metals in the Pacific Ocean has been put on hold following opposition from environmental organisations and several nations.

The metals are used in car batteries.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a United Nations body that administers vast mining-licence areas in international waters, announced the need for additional time to finalise mining regulations.

Originally slated for July, the delay was prompted by mounting pressure from environmentalists from countries opposing the seabed mining efforts and Greenpeace.

The Canadian-based mining startup, the Metals Company, is among the most impacted entities.

The company had teamed up with the small island nation of Nauru to pursue the first licence for large-scale seabed mining beginning in early 2024.

However, this timeline has now been derailed due to the delay imposed by the ISA.

The duration of the postponement remains uncertain, as opposing nations such as Costa Rica, Chile and France alongside other seabed mining opponents, seek to halt the mining altogether.

Conversely, supporters of seabed mining aim to expedite the process and have it underway by approximately 2025.

More research needed

Costa Rica’s representative to the ISA, Gina Guillén Grillo, a prominent figure leading the opposition to seabed mining, emphasised the need for more scientific research before proceeding with such endeavours. She warned against initiating the process prematurely to avert potential disasters.

“We are on the side of the ocean. We know there is not enough science. To start right now would be a disaster,” said Grillo.

Gerard Barron, CEO of the Metals Company, expressed optimism that his company, in partnership with Nauru, will ultimately secure the required approvals to proceed with the mining effort in the coming years.

The company will continue lobbying other nations to demonstrate the environmental advantages of ocean floor mining over conventional surface mining.

While the ISA works to establish environmental standards and a royalty rate for mining contractors, the Metals Company aims to convince other nations of the potential benefits of seabed mining.

The ISA has issued 31 contracts for exploratory work in various ocean regions, allowing nations and contractors to gather data on environmental impacts while extracting small quantities of seabed rocks and cobalt-rich crusts.

Environmentalists, in conjunction with nations like Costa Rica and France, view the delay as an opportunity to rally additional support for a long-term pause or even a complete moratorium on seabed mining.


New York Times

Radio Free Asia

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