Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon | Asian Correspondent
A global civic movement is mounting a campaign calling to stop mining the Pacific Ocean and other deep seas.
Citizens from all around the world have joined civil society, non-government organisations, and scientists in calling on the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to halt issuing further exploration licences and to establish a moratorium on deep sea mining.
With over 1.5 million square kilometres of ocean floor already under exploration leasehold in the Pacific ocean alone, the ISA has approved 27 exploration licences for deep sea mining.
Dr. Helen Rosenbaum of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said,
“We, along with over 640,000 people internationally call on the ISA and nation states to agree to a moratorium on seabed mining unless and until it is proven safe and there is broad civil society consent for this unprecedented industry.”
The ISA, an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica, was established to organise, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
“It is disappointing that so many exploration licences have been issued without any understanding of the environmental impacts of exploration, let alone exploitation. It also facilitates the development of an industry that does not have the consent of potentially affected communities and wider civil society. This industry has not gained a social licence to operate,” says Dr. Rosenbaum.
Dr. Catherine Coumans of Mining Watch Canada, said,
“As the global steward of the world’s oceans it is incumbent upon the ISA to protect the world’s already stressed marine ecosystems. The deep sea is one of world’s last ecosystems to have largely escaped devastating impacts of mining, and as an ecosystem that affects all life on earth it must be protected.”
According to Professor Richard Steiner, Conservation Biologist of Oasis Earth,
“The issue of deep sea mining is not just for scientists and mining companies. The debate has to be much broader and completely transparent. Presently, the ISA and sponsoring governments receive scientific advice and input primarily from companies with vested interests in a particular policy or regulatory result of the Authority. The authority’s decision making processes must be open to the participation of civil society and independent scientists.”
“Governments and the ISA should take note that the Center for Biological Diversity is suing the United States Government over the granting of exploration permits for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the absence of environmental impact studies,” stated Dr. Rosenbaum.
“There is insufficient scientific data about the impacts of deep sea mining, no regulatory frameworks in place to govern mining operations and the capacity to enforce such frameworks does not yet exist. This landmark legal case will set a precedent for application of the precautionary principle.”
A joint submission was made to the International Seabed Authority on its draft regulatory framework for deep sea mineral exploitation by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, Mining Watch Canada, Earthworks, Oasis Earth and the Mineral Policy Institute.
The ISA’s 21st annual session in Jamaica began July 14 and ends July 24, 2015.