MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Report Highlights Danger of Deep Sea Nodule Mining

Published by MAC on 2020-05-22
Source: Statement, Mining.com

We’ve only scratched the surface of understanding the deep ocean

A new report, published by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, analysing over 250 peer reviewed scientific articles finds that the impacts of mining deep sea polymetallic nodules would be extensive, severe, and last for generations, causing essentially irreversible species loss.

The report, Predicting the impacts of mining deep sea polymetallic nodules in the Pacific Ocean, also notes that there is little to no social licence to mine deep sea nodules and refutes Canadian company DeepGreen Metals’ claims that there will be economic gains for Pacific island economies.

New Report Highlights Deep Sea Nodule Mining Danger to Pacific Ocean and Island Nations

Deep Sea Mining Campaign – MiningWatch Canada press release - http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/deep-sea-nodule-mining-danger-to-pacific-ocean-and-island-nations/

19 May 2020

A new report analysing over 250 peer reviewed scientific articles finds that the impacts of mining deep sea polymetallic nodules would be extensive, severe, and last for generations, causing essentially irreversible species loss. The report, Predicting the impacts of mining deep sea polymetallic nodules in the Pacific Ocean, also notes that there is little to no social licence to mine deep sea nodules and refutes Canadian company DeepGreen Metals’ claims that there will be economic gains for Pacific island economies.

The report reveals a clear scientific consensus: the mining of deep sea nodules would cause irreversible damage to an ocean already under pressure; that a precautionary approach is warranted; and a moratorium is the only responsible way forward until several fundamental conditions can be met, including environmental, social and economic risks to be comprehensively understood and no loss of biodiversity.

Dr. Andrew Chin, the report’s lead researcher, stated, “We’ve only scratched the surface of understanding the deep ocean. Science is just starting to appreciate that the deep sea is not an empty void but is brimming with wonderful and unique life forms. Deep sea ecosystems form an interconnected realm with mid and surface waters through the movement of species, energy flows, and currents.”

Chin added, “Not only will the nodule mining result in the loss of these species and damage deep sea beds for thousands of years, it will potentially result in negative consequences for the rest of the ocean and the people who depend on its health.”

Covering 30 per cent of the earth's surface, the Pacific Ocean’s mineral rich polymetallic nodules have drawn speculation by mining companies and their investors. Canada's DeepGreen Metals has partnered with three Pacific Island governments to obtain exploration licences for the Clarion Clipperton Zone, stretching 4,500 km between Kiribati and Mexico. They are urging the ISA to rapidly finalise regulations for mining the deep seabed with little resistance from the ISA General Secretary.

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said, "Under the cover of COVID-19 the regulations could be pushed through despite the absence of meaningful public debate.”

“DeepGreen promotes deep sea mining as creating great wealth with minimal or no adverse impacts. The science does not support their claims. In fact, the best available research clearly indicates that the mining of deep sea nodules will place Pacific island states at great risk. The stakes are extremely high with Pacific economies, cultures, livelihoods, fisheries, food security, tourism, and iconic marine species all under threat from deep sea nodule mining.”

Rosenbaum added, “DeepGreen’s partnership with Tonga, Kiribati, and Nauru is potentially a catalyst for conflict with the push from Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea for a moratorium, and Pacific civil society’s vocal opposition to an industry that would destroy their oceans and Pacific way of life.”

Dr. Catherine Coumans, of MiningWatch Canada, said, “Plans to mine the deep sea show every hallmark of the environmental disasters industrial mining has created on land, including long-lasting ecosystem destruction and a failure to deliver benefits to local communities and vulnerable developing countries.”

“The report's case study of the failed Nautilus Minerals deep sea mining project attests to the harsh realities of thinly capitalised operators, and contracts that protect corporate interests over that of governments. This project left the government of Papua New Guinea with a debt of $125 million US,” Coumans added.

DeepGreen Metals promotes deep sea mining as preferable to terrestrial mining to address projected shortages of minerals for technology required to reduce global carbon emissions.

Professor Alex Rogers, a widely published deep sea ecologist and expert reviewer of the report, refutes DeepGreen’s claim, “I do not agree that mining the deep seabed is necessary to achieve this. Post COVID-19, we have a unique opportunity to develop a ‘green’ transition to a zero-carbon economy with far more sustainable ways to meet mineral requirements.”

Rogers explained, “We can do this through better regulation of terrestrial mining, circular economies based on smart design, recycling, reduced demand, and development of new technologies such as batteries that do not rely on metals obtained with a high environmental cost.”

“Since the 1980s, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development have increasingly found their way into the management of ocean industries such as fisheries. Deep sea mining is a relic, left over from the extractive economic approaches of the ’60s and ’70s. It begs the question whether deep sea mining has any place in this modern age of a sustainable blue economy,” concluded Rogers.

The report is available here.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Andrew Chin, Lead Author (AUSTRALIA), +61 (0) 428 728 325, andrew.chin@jcu.edu.au
Professor Alex Rogers, Expert Reviewer (UK), Mobile +44 (0)7927 645546, Home: +44 (0)1865 882275, alex.rogers@revocean.org
Dr. Catherine Coumans (CANADA), +1 613-256-8331, catherine@miningwatch.ca
Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, (AUSTRALIA), +61 (0) 413 201 793, hrose@vic.chariot.net.au


Fresh study calls for moratorium on deep-sea mining

Cecilia Jamasmie

https://www.mining.com/fresh-study-calls-for-moratorium-on-deep-sea-mining/

May 20, 2020

A coalition of non-profit organizations is pushing for an international moratorium on deep-sea mining following a fresh report that warns of potential irreversible damage to Pacific island states including Kiribati, the Cook Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.

“Accumulated scientific evidence indicates that the impacts of nodule mining in the Pacific Ocean would be extensive, severe and last for generations, causing essentially irreversible damage,” the report, commissioned by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign and MiningWatch Canada, found.

Polymetallic nodules — potato-sized metals-rich rocks that lie in a shallow layer of mud on the seafloor — are believed to be rich in cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese and rare earths.

According to the US Geological Survey, as the deep-sea accounts for more than half the world’s surface, its riches are several times higher than those found in all land reserves combined.

DeepGreen Metals, a Canadian start-up planning to extract cobalt and other battery metals from the seafloor, believes that deep-sea mining has the potential to eliminate or dramatically reduce most of the environmental and social impacts associated with traditional mining.

Unlike other seafloor miners, the company doesn’t want to drill, blast or dig the bottom of the ocean. Its main goal is to scoop up the small metallic rocks located thousands of metres under water.

Opposing views

Mining companies exploring the seafloor argue the extraction of those deep-buried riches could help diversify the current sources of battery metals.

Academics and scientists, however, are concerned by the lack of research on the possible impacts of high seas mining.

“Expectations that nodule mining would generate social and economic gains for Pacific island economies are based on conjecture,” the 52-page report released this week by a coalition of 80 NGOs said. “The impacts of mining on communities and people’s health are uncertain and require rigorous independent studies.”

“Predicting the Impacts of Mining Deep Sea Polymetallic Nodules in the Pacific Ocean,” based on 250 peer-reviewed scientific and other related articles, warns of severe and long-lasting impact on fish species. It also claims the activity could pose significant risks to marine ecosystems due to the interconnected nature of the ocean.

Two years ago, the European Parliament called for a ban on seabed mining until the environmental impacts and risks of disturbing unique deep-sea ecosystems are understood.

In the resolution, it also urged the European Commission to persuade member states to stop sponsoring and subsidizing licenses to explore and exploit the seabed in international waters as well as within their own territories.

Shortly after, an international team of researchers published a set of criteria to help the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body made up of 168 countries, protect biodiversity from deep-sea mining activities.

So far, it has granted 30 explorations licenses — 25 in the Pacific Ocean and 18 of those in the Clarion Clipperton Zone which stretches from Kiribati to Mexico.

 

 

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