Deep Sea Mining Targeted By Activists At London ConferencePublished by MAC on 2013-08-07
Source: Statement, New Internationalist (2013-08-02)
Deep Sea Mining Targeted By Activists At London Conference
Press Release: The Ocean Foundation, published on Scoop.NZ
2 August 2013
Today inside London's Cumberland Hotel a 'deep sea mining summit' is taking place, involving representatives from the mining industry, financiers and the British government. The industry is keen to get support - but the communities that will be most affected are worried about the potentially catastrophic effects.
The London Mining Network and the Deep Sea Mining campaign are asking the industry and potential supporters to think again as widespread opposition to the industry continues to grow.
Richard Solly of the London Mining Network said, "We outside the summit highlighting to participants the risks of investing in this 'frontier' industry - not only is there strong opposition from civil society where ever its been proposed but its viability is highly questionable once the economic, environmental and social costs are weighed up."
"A precautionary approach on environmental as well as economic grounds would demand a moratorium on this industry until the risks are assessed and analysed. We are still waiting to see a comprehensive risk analysis of deep sea mining"
Companies and governments from around the world have been rushing to explore and exploit minerals found in and on the seabed, such as gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and rare earths. Over 1.5 million square km of the Pacific Ocean is currently under exploration licence to to private and national companies within both territorial and international waters. There are currently 17 exploration contracts for the seabed that lies beyond national jurisdiction in the deep seas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. There is also significant exploration interest within national waters, particularly in the Pacific Ocean
Natalie Lowrey of the Deep Sea Mining campaign said, "As a new form of mining there are many uncertainties about deep sea mining due to the lack of practical experience of the technologies and to the lack of knowledge about the unique properties of the ecosystems at the sites being mined."
"Serious concerns have also been raised about the potential for heavy metals entering marine food chains with serious consequences for the health of coastal communities."
$21 billion of silver and gold locked away in e-products each year and electronic waste contains precious metal "deposits" 40 to 50 times richer than ores mine. Australian scientists have found that 1 tonne of old mobile phones contain about 100 kilograms of copper, three kilos of silver and 200 grams of gold.
According to Ms Lowrey, "Australian researchers have demonstrated that "urban mining" of e-waste will become a reality over the next decade - a similar time frame to the operationalisation of deep sea mining."
"Urban mining will be more lucrative than deep sea mining and will deal with an otherwise intractable waste problem in a much more responsible manner."
"The expense and risks of deep sea mining cannot be justified while there is a profitable, socially and environmentally beneficial alternative to satisfy society's needs for the same metals."
Deep sea mining - out of our depth
By Natalie Lowrey, Deep Sea Mining Campaign
31 July 2013
Inside London's Cumberland Hotel today a 'deep sea mining summit' is taking place, involving representatives from the mining industry, financiers and the British government. The industry is keen to get support - but the communities that will be most affected are worried about the potentially catastrophic effects. Both the London Mining Network and the Deep Sea Mining campaign are asking the industry and potential supporters to think again.
Companies and governments from around the world are rushing to claim rights to explore and exploit minerals found in and on the seabed, such as gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and rare earths. There is already significant exploration interest to deep sea mine in both international and national waters, particularly in the Pacific Ocean.
The world's first deep sea mining project to be given the green light has a very active and widespread opposition. Nautilus Minerals' Solwara 1 project in the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has galvanized the nation, with politicians, academics, students, church and community leaders loudly articulating their concerns over the uncertainties regarding environmental and social impacts. A petition signed by over 24,000 people to ‘Stop Experimental Seabed Mining' was delivered to the PNG government in November 2012.
‘We recommend... in the absence of clear scientific evidence, that our respective national governments err on the side of caution and call for a stop to the issuance of further seabed mining licenses.' - Murray Isimeli, Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC)
Representing over six million people across the Pacific, the Pacific Conference Council has called for a moratorium on deep sea mining, as has the Vanuatu Minister for Resources and Lands, Ralph Regenvanu.
The application of the precautionary principle and Free Prior and Informed Consent will be essential to ensure a social licence for deep sea mining.
Put simply, local communities should have a say in decisions about whether deep sea mining should go ahead in their waters, and have the right to veto projects, and independently verified research must be conducted in advance of any mining being permitted, to demonstrate that neither communities nor ecosystems will suffer long-term negative impacts.
Three types of deep sea minerals are of interest to mining companies: seafloor massive sulphides (formed around hydrothermal vents); cobalt-rich manganese crusts; and manganese nodules. The methods proposed for seabed mining are likely to have significant direct and indirect impacts on the marine environment and, in many cases, coastal communities.
Two detailed reviews by independent scientists of the Nautilus Solwara 1 project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) have found that there is serious concern that marine ecosystems and coastal communities may indeed be at risk of exposure to heavy metals. Nautilus has not refuted the findings of these reviews.
What is certain about deep sea mining is that impacts are associated with each step of the mining process. The continuous nature of the ocean means that impacts will not be isolated to the mine site. They will spread far and wide, with liabilities to match. Impacts on marine life and local communities translate into liabilities and losses for companies and governments.
The world's first deep sea mining project is struggling to get up and running and there is a clear absence of scientific evidence that this new ‘frontier' industry will not harm the environment and communities. With such serious liabilities in the face of a new industry that is untested and untried, the question remains as to whether deep sea mining is a lucrative investment.
There is investment, however, in urban mining, the process of ‘reclaiming compounds and elements from products, buildings and waste'. A staggering 320 tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver estimated to be worth $21 billion is used annually to make personal computers, cell phones, tablet computers and other electronic products worldwide. There is an abundance of gold and silver, rare earths and copper in the waste generated by the disposal of these products. It is estimated that electronic waste contains precious metal ‘deposits' 40 to 50 times richer than the ores currently mined.
Urban mining will be more lucrative and will deal in a responsible manner with an otherwise intractable waste problem. The choice for investors should be clear. On the one hand there is the significant expense, technical uncertainties and environmental risks of deep sea mining - and on the other the relatively low-cost, low-risk, socially and environmentally beneficial profits to be made from urban mining. The responsible recycling of minerals would also create jobs and business opportunities.