Deep-sea mining was given the go-ahead to start in two years, after the small Pacific island nation of Nauru notified the UN body that governs the nascent industry of plans to start mining.
By activating the so-called “two-year rule,” which some have called the nuclear option, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) now has two years to finalize the regulations governing the controversial industry.
If it cannot do so, the ISA must allow mining contractors to begin work under the regulations in effect at that time.
Nauru President Lionel Aingimea notified ISA of the intention of Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI), a subsidiary of a Canadian company called DeepGreen, to seek approval to begin mining in two years in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone ( CCZ) in the North Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Mexico.
Aingimea’s letter, dated June 25, requested the ISA to “complete the adoption of the rules, regulations and procedures necessary to facilitate the approval of the work plans for exploitation in the area within two years” from June 30th.
Nauru believed that the draft of the deep-sea mining regulations was almost complete after seven years of talks, Aingimea’s letter said.
Environmental groups, the EU Parliament, several Pacific nations, including Fiji and Papua New Guinea, and Sir David Attenborough, have called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, arguing that very little is known about its impact.
Last week, more than 350 scientists from 44 countries signed a petition calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining “until sufficient and solid scientific information has been obtained.”
Jessica Desmond, Greenpeace Aotearoa ocean activist, said: “We are currently in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis, we know that deep sea ecosystems are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet and we are seeing this relentless and reckless drive undermine these areas, even though scientists clearly warn us that the results could be disastrous. “
“It’s very disappointing, it’s very reckless … and it’s very dangerous,” said Duncan Currie, an international attorney who has worked in ocean law for 30 years. He represents the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, which is calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining.
Currie said the two-year rule was designed to be used if a country was ready to mine and then found its way to do so blocked by some countries in the ISA, or if progress toward adopting regulations to govern deepwater mining it had stalled. , but that neither situation was the case.
“A very important consultation will take place next week,” Currie said, referring to the July 3 deadline for responses to the draft standards and guidelines. “They can hardly complain that things are not happening when they happen next week.
“If we are in a situation where a company has tested all of its equipment and is frustrated by the regulatory environment, we could expect to see this, but we haven’t seen it.”
DeepGreen seeks to extract polymetallic nodules from the seabed. The nodules, which resemble potatoes and are believed to take millions of years to form, are rich in manganese, nickel, cobalt and rare earth metals, key components of electric vehicle batteries. DeepGreen argues that deep-sea mining is a less damaging alternative to the environment and society than land-based mining, and is crucial for the transition to a greener economy.
DeepGreen is in the process of merging with the blank check company Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp (SOAC) to become The Metals Company. The Metals Company plans to go public on the Nasdaq in the third quarter.
But SOAC said in a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week that it was not yet known whether mining the seabed would have less impact on biodiversity than mining the same amount of metals on land. .
“We cannot predict … whether the environment and biodiversity are affected by our activities and, if so, how long it will take for the environment and biodiversity to recover,” he said.
DeepGreen has agreements with Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati for CCZ exploration rights covering 224,533 square kilometers, roughly the area of Romania.
DeepGreen did not respond to requests for comment for this story. In response to questions about invoking the two-year rule for an earlier story, a spokesperson told The Guardian last week that the two-year rule “was only available for use by sponsoring states, not contractors like DG, who cannot invoke it “, but it was a” valid option available to all member states of the International Seabed Authority “.
The Nauru government did not respond to requests for comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism