Deep-Sea Mining Rejected by Palau, Fiji, and Samoa

Deep-Sea Mining Rejected by Palau, Fiji, and Samoa
Palau President Surangel Whipps speaks as he greets tourists from Taiwan during their arrival in Koror after Taiwan and Palau launched a rare holiday travel bubble as the two diplomatic allies try to kickstart their battered tourist industries after successfully keeping COVID-19 infections at bay on April 1, 2021. (Richard W. Brooks/AFP via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

The Pacific nations of Palau, Fiji, and Samoa have formed a new alliance to call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, citing the industry’s potential hazards to ocean ecology.

“We believe it is not worth the risk. We ask all of you to support that deep-sea mining increases the vulnerability of the seabed floor and marine life,” Palau’s President Surangel Whipps Jr. said at the U.N. Ocean Conference in Lisbon on Monday.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said that while Fiji has adopted a measure to ban deep-sea mining by 2030 and expanded its maritime protected areas by 8 percent, he believes that more could be done to prevent the industry if other countries follow suit.

“We won’t be able to replace the potential discoveries that seabed mining could grind into dust—we have to put knowledge first,” Bainimarama was quoted as saying by Pacific Island Times.

Deep-sea mining uses heavy machinery to suck up off the ocean floor potato-sized rocks or nodules that contain cobalt, manganese, and other rare metals mostly used in batteries.

Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama attends a meeting on day three of COP26 at SECC in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 2, 2021. (Phil Noble/Pool/Getty Images)
Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama attends a meeting on day three of COP26 at SECC in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 2, 2021. (Phil Noble/Pool/Getty Images)
Environmental group Greenpeace said the International Seabed Authority (ISA) would meet in July and August to develop regulations that, if adopted, would see deep-sea mining commence by July 2023.
“The International Seabed Authority has been rushing headlong into the risky industry while ignoring its mandate to protect the oceans,” Greenpeace oceans project lead Arlo Hemphill said in a statement.
“Even stranger, it is preparing to join those who would be tearing up the ocean floor in search of minerals. The deep ocean, one of the world’s largest, most fragile, and important ecosystems, must remain off-limits to the mining industry,” Hemphill added.

Moratorium on Deep-Sea Mining

Chile on June 17 called for a 15-year moratorium on adopting regulations for deep-sea mining, urging state parties to extend the deadline for adopting regulations and obtaining “more evidence and scientific certainty to ensure the protection of the marine environment.”
“The deep seabed is one of the most sensitive ocean ecosystems, for which there is insufficient scientific knowledge and limited understanding of the potential impacts of ocean activities, especially in relation to its role as a carbon sink,” it said in a letter to the U.N. (pdf).

Last month, the Group of Seven nations agreed that stringent environmental controls should govern deep-sea mining and would only approve such projects if they did not harm the marine environment.

But not all nations are against it. China is a major proponent and even smaller nations like the Pacific island of Nauru, for instance, asked the ISA last year to fast-track the adoption of seabed mining regulations.

Reuters contributed to this report.