Drawing the Pacific Blue Line: Call for a global ban on deep sea miningPublished by MAC on 2021-03-27
Source: Cook Islands News, Stuff.co.nz (2021-03-27)
The Māori Party of New Zealand introduced legislation that would ban seabed mining.
A collection of Pacific civil society groups, including the Pacific Conferences of Churches (PCC), Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), and the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) released an open letter calling for Deep Sea Mining to be banned across the globe. Other signatories on the letter include the Pacific Youth Council, Greenpeace and WWF.
Meawhile, the Māori Party of New Zealand introduced legislation that would ban seabed mining. Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer called on all MPs and parties to support her first Member’s Bill, the Prohibition on Seabed Mining Legislation Amendment Bill, when she announced it on social media. “Having helped to lead the campaign against seabed mining with my iwi, both in the courts and on the streets, I’ve always said that this would be one of my top priorities as a Te Paati Māori MP,” Ngarewa-Packer said.
Pacific call for global ban on deep sea mining
A widespread Pacific civil society call for a global ban on deep sea mining activity has been launched.
26 March 2021
Their Blue Line Statement said that as custodians of the world's biggest ocean, Pacific people had a moral obligation to protect it against exploitation and destruction.
However, a number of Pacific governments including the Cook Islands and Nauru have backed exploration activities by companies spearheading the embryonic deepsea mining sector.
Opening the Blue Line launch, the Secretary General of the Pacific Conference of Churches, Reverend James Bhagwan said governments and companies claiming there would be minimal damage to the ocean from deep sea mining ran the risk of being on the wrong side of history.
"That which is actually know about our ocean depths actually runs contrary to the push for deep sea mining," Bhagwan said.
"Scientists regularly warn against the devastating and irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats; the resulting biodoversity loss, including of many known endemic species and others yet to be identified, that will be affected and most likely will never recover; the risk of giant sediment plumes travelling beyond the mining sites, smothering and potentially destroying all life forms on the sea floor."
The coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalization, Maureen Penjueli, told the campaign launch that scientists have given clear warnings about damage to oceans and the link to climate change.
"Recently they warned us about the carbon storage facilities of our ocean floor itself. Recovery of biodiversity destruction would be something that would not happen in human timelines."
She said the Pacific Ocean had long been viewed by external powers as a kind of "anti-space" or void.
"A space in which great tests and experiments have taken place, first for world peace.
"In the past it was used as the proving ground for nuclear weapons. Our people drew a Blue Pacific Line and said never again."
She said the advocates of deep sea mining were now presenting the industry as neccessary for the world's fight against climate change under "false narratives of green technological revolution".
Companies such as DeepGreen Metals, which is looking to mine parts of the Pacific, say the world needs polymetallic nodules on the seabed for materials to make batteries for electric vehicles that will drive the carbon-free societies of the future.
Bhagwan described this argument as spurious, saying the minerals needed could be sourced from better recycling efforts and land-based resources.
In a recent interview with RNZ Pacific, the Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown denied that his country was gambling with ocean health by opening up for deep sea mining exploration.
Economic strains caused by the pandemic have highlighted the need for Cook Islands to diversify its tourism-reliant economy.
The Cook Islands' roughly two million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone contains an estimated 10 billion tonnes of polymetallic nodules, rich in manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and rare earth minerals.
Bhagwan noted that decades ago land-based mining also began with promises of economic and social benefits for Pacific people.
"And our lived experiences in the Pacific show clearly that the powerful corporations benefit the most while it is our people who bear the costs of destruction of our natural environment.
"Across resource frontiers of our region, history records this deception time and again."
Tuvalu's former prime minister, Enele Sopoaga who attended the online launch, said countries inviting seabed exploration were opening up a huge range of problems for ocean health.
"Soon they will be coming to Tuvalu, especially the vulnerable economies looking for the extra dollar. No. This is not on as long as I am in the parliament of Tuvalu.
"I will use all my energy to stop this mad idea about mining the seabed."
Sopoaga is also calling for an end to the shipment of nuclear waste and disposal of plastics.
Te Paati Māori bill seeks to ban seabed mining
Mar 10 2021
Legislation that would ban seabed mining is being launched by Te Paati Māori.
Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer called on all MPs and parties to support her first Member’s Bill, the Prohibition on Seabed Mining Legislation Amendment Bill, when she announced it on social media.
Ngarewa-Packer has led a fight for more than six years against a bid by Trans Tasman Resources Ltd to mine the seabed off the South Taranaki coast, in her role as Kaiarataki of Te Runanga o Ngāti Ruanui.
“Having helped to lead the campaign against seabed mining with my iwi, both in the courts and on the streets, I’ve always said that this would be one of my top priorities as a Te Paati Māori MP,” she said in a post on Tuesday morning.
“Deep sea mining is a risky, new mining practice. Mining up to 50 million tonnes of ironsand every year for 35 years would be an absolute environmental disaster. It would destroy entire ecosystems and damage our coastlines for generations to come.
“There is a growing global movement to end seabed mining – this would be a win-win opportunity for the Government to support our people and protect our moana for future generations.”
Her bill aims to put in place a nationwide ban on seabed mining consents within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and coastal waters governed under the Resource Management Act.
It would also retrospectively withdraw existing seabed mining consents and exploration rights under the EEZ Act and Crown Minerals Act and prohibit the ability to apply for exploration rights for seabed mining under the Crown Minerals Act.
In order for it to be introduced to Parliament, it must be drawn from a ballot or support must be given by 61 members excluding Ministers and under-secretaries.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has yet to announce a verdict on whether a controversial seabed mining project off the South Taranaki coast can go ahead.
At the end of a three-day hearing at the court in Wellington in November, Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann said the court would take “some time” to consider its decision.
The five judges understood the significance of the issues to New Zealand and Taranaki in particular, she said.
In August 2017 the Environmental Protection Authority granted Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) 35-year marine and marine discharge consents to mine up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand a year in an area about 66 square kilometres, off the south Taranaki coast.
But the consents were overturned in the High Court, and TTR’s case in the Court of Appeal failed.
In April 2017, TTR was given permission to mine up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand a year, for 35 years, in an area about 66 square km offshore from Taranaki.
The permission was overturned in the High Court, and TTR’s appeal to the Court of Appeal failed.
Environmentalists, iwi, and fishing interests opposing the mining proposal are arguing against TTR’s appeal to the Supreme Court.
Opponents say the sediment returned to the sea, and the noise of mining activity, will badly affect marine mammals and other creatures.
Trans Tasman Resources Ltd has been approached for comment.