Ropate Valemei | The Fiji Times | June 09, 2016
IGNORANCE of deep ocean conditions has allowed supporters to characterise deep sea mining (DSM) as low-impact.
This was revealed in a report by Blue Ocean Law and the Pacific Network on Globalisation on how deep sea mining and inadequate regulatory frameworks imperil the Pacific and its people.
However, the report states that even a cursory look at the existing scientific literature establishes that the likely outcomes of DSM include species extinction and loss of biodiversity, sediment plumes and tailings having the potential to pollute the entire water column, the uptake of heavy metals and toxins by marine animals, including commercial fisheries and the disturbance of marine mammals from constant noise and light in the water.
It also suggested that the risk of oil spills and accidents from increased vessel and surface traffic, the destruction of coral reefs through increased acidity of water, potential for induced volcanism or seismic activity and increased carbon emissions.
For nations that depend so heavily upon fisheries, ecotourism, and marine resources for their livelihoods, these risks are extreme, and any activity which threatens them should trigger the utmost concern may also likely to occur.
“Perhaps these risks would nevertheless merit consideration, were DSM really such a lucrative proposition.”
However, it states that the chances of Pacific Island nations seeing substantial revenue from DSM in the near future are low at best.
“Its experimental nature in this early stage and long timeline mean it will most likely be many years before individual DSM sites are profitable even for their operators.
“Mining ventures are notoriously high-risk and dependent on market fluctuations; there are numerous examples of high-cost mines throughout the region which fail to produce profit for either their owners or governments.”
For example, it says Fiji’s bauxite mine, PNG’s Hidden Valley and Sinivit gold mines, PNG’s Ramu Nickel mine, and the Gold Ridge Mine in the Solomon Islands), instead producing only environmental contamination, conflict, and other social ills.
Furthermore, it highlights that the resource revenue brings with it the prospects of greater corruption, instability, and economic challenges such as Dutch Disease and heightened vulnerability to external shocks.
While it is theoretically possible to manage some of these phenomena through transparent institutions, it says most small island states simply lack the manpower and resources to do this, despite otherwise good intentions.
“DSM is being considered as the provenance of governments and industry, but the aforementioned impacts will be felt by communities — most notably, vulnerable ones, including indigenous groups, women, and children.”
The report further states that it is absolutely imperative — and indeed required under international law — that indigenous peoples be not only consulted, but receive adequate and objective information enabling them to either give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent to any DSM projects which may impact them.