GLOBAL CALLS FOR A MORATORIUM
Canadians call on the Government of Canada to join global citizens, scientists, governments, parliamentarians, corporations, and financial institutions in supporting a moratorium or ban on deep seabed mining.
In December 2021, Member of Parliament Gordon Johns, tabled a parliamentary petition supported by MiningWatch Canada, Oceans North, the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society, Nature Canada, Northern Confluence, and West Coast Environmental Law. The petition calls on the Government of Canada to: “Support a moratorium on deep seabed mining” and “Immediately halt the granting of exploration contracts and the development of regulations for exploitation by the ISA [International Seabed Authority], per the recommendations of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, of which Canada is a member.”
In three months the petition was supported by over 4000 Canadians. MP Johns presented the petition in the House of Commons on April 5, 2022, likely the first time Deep Sea Mining was raised in the Canadian House of Commons.
The response from the Government of Canada on May 19, 2022 came from the Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, and was disappointing. Far from supporting global calls for a moratorium, Canada seems committed not only to continuing the process of developing regulations for DSM international waters but also applying these in Canada’s territorial waters: “Pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Canada is a Party, any eventual national legislation established for seabed activities in areas under national jurisdiction must be “no less effective” than international rules, standards and recommended practices and procedures.”
Joint NGO Letter
In February 2021, MiningWatch Canada and Oceans North sent a letter to six Government of Canada Ministers from 19 Canadian organizations calling on the Government of Canada to “support a moratorium on deep seabed mining, as raised by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.” We have yet to receive a reply.
House of Commons
On April 5, 2022, Member of Parliament Gordon Johns addressed the House of Commons on the issue of deep seabed mining. It was the first time this issue had been raised in the House of Commons. MP Johns called on the Government of Canada to support a moratorium on deep seabed mining.
In December 2021, award-winning film maker, Julia Barnes, released Canada’s first short video on DSM called Deep Sea Mining: What could it do to the Ocean?
Marine Experts call for a Moratorium. This statement has been signed onto by 622 marine science and policy experts from over 44 countries calling for a moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining (DSM).
Marine scientists call on G7 countries to prioritize ocean protections – In May 2021, a group of marine scientists issued a letter with “Seven Asks for the G7.” The first of the seven asks is for: banning the “destructive extraction of ocean resources” – such as deep sea mining, offshore gas and oil exploration, and overfishing.
High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) is made up of leaders from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal and is supported by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. Two reports, one by marine experts commissioned by the High Level Panel and the other, the Panel’s final report, contain notable conclusions:
- What Role for Ocean-Based Renewable Energy and Deep-Seabed Minerals in a Sustainable Future? Proposes a “precautionary pause” in the issuance of new contracts by the ISA between 2020 and 2030, the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2020:45).
- Ocean Solutions That Benefit People, Nature and the Economy is the final report of the Ocean Panel and concludes that “Until the need for, and potential consequences of, deep-sea mining are better understood, the concept is conceptually difficult to align with the definition of a sustainable ocean economy and raises various environmental, legal and governance challenges, as well as possible conflicts with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is thus not discussed further in this report.” (2020:60, emphasis added).
IUCN Resolution 122
In September 2021 the IUCN at the World Conservation Congress put forth Motion 069 calling for ‘protection of deep-ocean ecosystems and biodiversity through a moratorium on seabed mining‘. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the motion. Voting agencies from 38 states voted in favour (a total of 81 votes). Canadian government agencies abstained, along with those from 12 other countries (a total of 28 votes). Only agencies from 6 countries voted against the motion (a total of 18 votes). Of 658 indigenous and non-governmental organizations, 577 voted in favour of the motion for a moratorium on seabed mining. The adopted motion is now IUCN Resolution 122.
National and Local Governments
National and local governments call for moratoriums and bans on deep seabed mining in their own territorial waters and for mining in international waters. See for example:
Dominican Republic – On March 31, 2023, during meetings of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the Dominican Republic announced that it adopted a precautionary pause in regard to the beginning of exploitation of deep sea resources in accordance with the basic principles of its environmental law.
Republic of Vanuatu – On March 24, 2023, during meetings of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the Republic of Vanuatu announced “we join the growing international call for a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining to protect our ocean, and we align ourselves with the Member States of the International Seabed Authority who are making this call (…)We acknowledge the leadership and stand with those in our Pacific family – Palau, Fiji, Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia – who were the first to take a stance against deep-sea mining on the international stage.”
France – On November 7, 2022, at COP 27 in Egypt, President Macron called for an outright ban on deep seabed mining. President Macron said: “C’est le même type d’initiatives que nous voulons mener pour protéger les océans, avec une ligne de mire : la conférence des nations unies de 2025. Et les océans doivent être ce qu’a été l’espace, au fond, il y a quelques années : une nouvelle frontière pour la coopération et le multilatéralisme. Et donc là aussi, sur ce sujet, nous devons tout faire pour préserver les solutions en matière climatique et la biodiversité dans nos océans et je veux ici être très clair, la France sera au rendez-vous de ces engagements et, fidèle à ce que j’ai déjà dit, c’est pourquoi la France soutient l’interdiction de toute exploitation des grands fonds marins. J’assume cette position et la porterai dans les enceintes internationales.” President Macron’s position was reported on by Bloomberg press, among others.
New Zealand – On October 27, 2022, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nanaia Mahuta, announced that Aotearoa New Zealand will back a conditional moratorium on deep sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction, until strong environmental rules can be agreed and backed up by robust science. She noted: “Deep sea mining could cause irreversible changes to this environment and have a significant impact on its biodiversity. To understand this impact will require far more scientific knowledge about the deep seabed than we currently have.” Referring to the July 2023 deadline for completion of regulations, imposed by Nauru’s 2 year rule trigger, Minister Mahuta noted: “Progress on the Mining Code to date has been slow. We are not confident that a robust regulatory framework for deep sea mining beyond national jurisdiction, which ensures the effective protection of the marine environment, can be agreed by the required deadline.” During Question Period in New Zealand’s Parliament Minister Mahuta said “The deep sea contains some of the least-understood ecosystems on the planet, and our scientific knowledge of it remains extremely limited. Without adequate knowledge and environmental protections, we do not believe it is safe for mining to take place.”
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – On July 10, 2022, FSM joined the Alliance of Countries launched by Palau and joined by Fiji and Samoa during the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1, 2022). President David W. Panuelo called for a “moratorium (i.e. a temporary prohibition and/or pause) on the issuance of new deep-sea mining exploration contracts, exploitation contracts, and an adoption of the Mining Code in international waters by the International Seabed Authority.”
Portugal – In July 2022 Portugal’s minister of the economy and the sea António Costa Silva is reported to have come out against deep seabed mining in Portugal’s waters, saying: “Deep sea mining is not a question we can ask today because it is completely out of the question in the coming decades. We don’t know very well how the sea works. We know 5% of the sea. We need to know the dynamics of the oceans first”. Previously, in July, 2020, the Portuguese Minister of the Sea is reported to have stated that there should be “no deep-sea mining around the Azores” and that “deep-sea mining would compromise the archipelago’s biodiversity.”
France – During the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1, 2022), France’s President Macron made a public call for the creation of a legal regime to stop deep seabed mining. He said “We have … to create the legal framework to stop the high seas mining…and not to allow new activities that can endanger these ecosystems.”
Republic of Palau – On June 27, 2022, during the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1, 2022), Palau launched an Alliance of Countries calling for a moratorium on deep seabed mining joined by Fiji and Samoa.
Republic of Fiji – On June 27, 2022 during the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1, 2022), Fiji joined Palau and Samoa in an Alliance of Countries calling for a moratorium on deep seabed mining. Previously, in August 2019, the Government of Fiji announced it would impose a moratorium on seabed mining in its territorial waters during the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Tuvalu. The Governments of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu indicated their support for this call (Chin & Hari, 2020, p. 42).
Independent State of Samoa – On June 27, 2022, during the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1, 2022), Samoa joined Palau and Fiji in an Alliance of Countries calling for a moratorium on deep seabed mining.
Peru – In June 2022 Peruvian Congressman Ed Málaga is reported to have been ready to introduce a bill that would call for the first deep-seabed mining moratorium in Latin America.
Chile – On June 16, 2022, Chile stated that it seeks a 15 year pause in the elaboration of rules for DSM through the International Seabed Authority: “Chile strongly urges the following: That States Parties agree to extend the deadline for the elaboration of such rules, regulations and procedures, contained in subparagraph b of the aforementioned paragraph for a period of 15 years, in order to obtain more evidence and scientific certainty to ensure the protection of the marine environment.” Previously, in November of 2021, the senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on the President of the Republic to issue a mandate to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Mining, and the Environment to support and implement a moratorium on all deep seabed mining activity, including the issuing of new exploration or exploitation permits. The resolution calls for a pause on the development of national legislation around deep seabed mining – as well as calling for a moratorium on the development of regulations by the International Seabed Authority – until such a time that sufficient scientific information is made available about the biological diversity of deep-sea ecosystems. The resolution also requests that the government promote reform of the International Seabed Authority, in order to ensure that the decision-making and regulatory processes are transparent, accountable, inclusive, effective and environmentally responsible. While the President has yet to respond to the resolution, the Chilean Chamber of Mining actively supports the call for a moratorium, citing a report from MiningWatch Canada and the Deep Sea Mining Campaign about the predicted impacts of mining the deep sea for polymetallic nodules.
New South Wales Government of Australia – In February 2022, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Resources Paul Toole, announced a ban on exploration and commercial mining in the state’s territorial waters. Toole said that “This policy recognises that our coastal ecosystems are complex and sensitive and formalises our long-held view that the NSW Government will not support offshore exploration or mining for commercial purposes.”
Guam – In a letter of December 7, 2021, from the 36th legislature of Guam to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), Guam informed the ISA that it had “adopted Resolution 210-36, Relative to Reaffirming Guam’s Right to Safeguard Cultural Resources and to Protect Ocean Ecosystems from Environmental Harm and Exploitive Industry Interests Through a Moratorium on Seabed Mining, to Ensure the Health of Guam’s People.” The letter asks “that the International Seabed Authority respect our right to protect our ocean ecosystems by supporting and implementing a moratorium on deep seabed mining.”
Canary Islands, Spain – The Parliament of the Canary Islands has called on the Government of Spain to adopt a ban on underwater mining in the waters under its jurisdiction for a moratorium on deep seabed mining in international waters and seeks a moratorium on deep seabed mining from the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
Galicia, Spain – In November 2021, the parliament of the autonomous region of Galicia in Spain passed a resolution by a unanimous vote calling on the President of Galicia to support a moratorium on seabed mining.
Germany – On October 31, 2021, the first day of the International Seabed Authority’s meetings in Jamaica, Germany called for a Precautionary Pause on deep seabed mining. Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy and a G7 country said “The German Government here wants to underline its view that the current knowledge and available science is insufficient to approve deep seabed mining until further notice.” Germany’s stance is particularly important because “Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) has since July 2006 had an exploration contract for manganese-rich rocks covering 77,230 square kilometres of seabed in the northern Pacific’s Clarion-Clipperton Zone. The contract, initially for 15 years, was last year extended for a further five years.”
European Union – In June 2021, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution that “calls on the [European] Commission and the Member States to promote a moratorium, including at the International Seabed Authority, on deep-seabed mining until such time as the effects of deep-sea mining on the marine environment, biodiversity and human activities at sea have been studied and researched sufficiently and deep seabed mining can be managed to ensure no marine biodiversity loss nor degradation of marine ecosystems.” The resolution also “emphasises the need for the Commission to cease funding for the development of seabed mining technology in line with a circular economy based on minimising, reusing and recycling minerals and metals” [European Parliament resolution of 9 June 2021 on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives (2020/2273(INI)).: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2021-0277_EN.html paragraphs 184-185]
Washington State in the USA – In March of 2021, the Washington State legislature banned deep sea mining in the state’s territorial waters.
Tristan da Cunha – In 2020, the UK overseas territory Tristan da Cunha banned seabed mining in 700,000 sq km of its territorial waters.
The Northern Territorial Government of Australia – The Northern Territorial Government of Australia declared a moratorium on deep seabed mining in its territorial waters in 2012 and has renewed this position repeatedly since then.
Oregon State in the USA – Oregon State adopted an Ocean Resources Management Plan in 1991 that effectively prohibits seabed mining for minerals in its territorial waters because it prioritizes renewable marine resources and requires preserving fish habitat.
During the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon three Parliamentary Ocean champions Ms. Marie Toussaint, MEP (France), Ms. Caroline Roose, MEP (France), and Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, MP (Vanuatu) launched a Global Parliamentary Declaration Calling for a Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining. As of August 30 more than 200 global parliamentarians have signed on from 50 countries — including one Member of Parliament from Canada. See here for the sign on sheet and for those who have already signed on.
- During the July 2022 ISA meetings in Jamaica, artisanal fishing organizations from Africa and the Pacific reiterated their call to ban deep seabed mining. The Locally Managed Marine Areas network (LMMA) and the African Confederation of Processional Artisanal Fishing Organizations (CAOPA) said that: “deep-sea mining, like other destructive polluting activities promoted as part of the blue economy, should not be allowed or supported under the current circumstances as it will jeopardise the future of coastal communities. In particular, our fishing zones, our EEZs, are too precious to be ever exposed to the risks posed by deep sea mining.”
These fisheries associations, among others, have also indicated opposition:
- On 16 November 2021, the EU Long Distance Advisory Council, North Western Waters Advisory Council and Pelagic AC issued a joint statement to the European Commission recommending: “A prohibition on exploitation by the ISA of marine minerals in the international seabed area before the effects of deep-sea mining on the marine environment, biodiversity and human activities have been sufficiently researched, the risks are understood and the technologies and operational practices are able to demonstrate no serious harm to the environment, no marine biodiversity loss nor degradation of marine ecosystems and for the Commission to cease funding for the development of seabed mining technology in line with a circular economy based on minimising, reusing and recycling minerals and metals in line with the precautionary principle and taking into account the resolution of 9 June 2021 adopted by the European Parliament.”
- On 28 May 2019, CC Sud issued a statement expressing support for “an international moratorium on deep sea commercial mining licenses until the effects of the deep-sea mining on the marine environment, biodiversity and activities human beings at sea have been studied and researched sufficiently and until all possible risks are understood.”
- In June 2020 Pelagic AC issued a statement recommending: “1. A moratorium on mining of the deep-sea needs to be in place in international waters without exemptions until the risks are fully assessed and understood; 2. No deep seabed mining in the international areas of the world’s seabed under the jurisdiction of the International Seabed Authority should be permitted unless a very clear case can be made that society must mine the deep-sea for the benefit of humankind as a whole and not simply because it may be economically viable and profitable to an individual company or country. 3. The case for deep sea mining needs to be evaluated in light of commitments to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, through strengthening the resilience and taking action for the restoration of marine ecosystems, as well as initiatives to transition to circular economies, sustainable methods of consumption and production and related efforts as called for the in the UN 2030 Agenda on SDGs. 4. That the European Commission and Member States stop funding, facilitating or promoting the development of deep-sea mining and deep-sea mining technology and support the abovementioned objectives.”
A growing number of major multinational companies are signing on to a “Business Statement Supporting a Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining”
These currently include:
- BMW Group
- Samsung SDI
- Volvo Group
- Triodos Bank
- Renault Group
- Rivian Automotive
- Razer Inc.
Additionally, on page 35 of their Responsible Sourcing Report, Microsoft states that “Microsoft has established a moratorium on using minerals sources through deep-seabed mining until the proper research and scientific studies have been completed.”
Furthermore, the following metals purchasing companies are members of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). These companies endorse IRMA’s mining standard and consider it in their metal sourcing. IRMA has released a statement on deep sea mining ((IRMA newsletter April 20, 2021) in which IRMA states that it “does not allow its system (whether self-assessments or audits) to be used by companies involved in deep-sea mining exploration.” This effectively rules out using metals from the deep sea for IRMA members, which include:
- BMW Group
- Cast Operating Company LLC
- Corning Incorporated
- Daimler AG
- Ford Motor Company
- General Motors Company
- Microsoft Corporation
- Rio Grande, Inc.
- Schaeffler Group
- Tiffany & Co.
The following financial institutions prohibit or restrict investments in, or financing of, deep sea mining.
- ABN AMRO – This bank’s March 2021 exclusion list includes: “Commercial large scale deep sea mining beyond exclusive economic zones.”
- Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A. This bank’s December 2020 Framework notes: “BBVA will not support the provision of financial services to clients or projects, subject to section 2 of this Framework, when it has sufficient evidence that clients and/or projects are involved in the following activities: … Seabed mines….”
- Lloyds Banking Group This banking group’s external sector statement notes that: “Lloyds Banking Group will not: … Support (new or existing) customers undertaking deep-sea mining….”
- NatWest Group – In its November 2021 Environmental, Social and Ethical Risk Policy Summary – Mining & Metals Sector, NatWest Group notes under its “policy for lending and underwriting to the Mining & Metals sector” a “restricted list” that includes “Companies undertaking deep-sea mining.”
- Standard Chartered Bank – This bank’s position statement, effective March 2022, states: “We will not provide financial services directly towards:…The exploration or production of Deep-sea Mining projects….”
- Triodos Bank – In addition to having signed on to the “Business Statement Supporting a Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining,” Triodos brought out a new policy on 9 June 2022. In it they have added deep sea mining as “a controversial activity.” This means that the practice is excluded from its financing by the Tridos Bank as Triodos Bank excludes companies that: “…. Are involved in controversial mining activities, for example deep sea mining or asbestos mining.” Previously, on December 2, 2021, the Triodos Bank issued a statement in support of a moratorium on deep seabed mining that notes: “Triodos Bank commits to exclude deep-sea mining from its financing. (…) In this time of unprecedented crisis relating to our natural world, Triodos Bank believes it is very important to implement a mortarium on deep-sea mining. There is no place for an industry that risks compromising the services to our planet that the deep ocean provides.”
The Co-operative Bank – Under its 2022 Ethical Policy, The Co-operative Bank excludes deepsea mining (p7): “We will not provide banking services to any business or organisation whose activity contributes to global climate change or the destruction of ecosystems, via: The exploration or extraction of minerals using deep seabed mining, including the conduct of research that facilitates deep sea mining”
- CreditSuisse – On page 9 of CreditSuisse’s 2022 Summary of Credit Suisse’s Sector Policies and Guidelines, CreditSuisse excludes both Project-related financing and General Corproate Purpose finance in regard to deep seabed mining stating “Credit Suisse will not provide any project-related financing towards the exploration or extraction of mineral deposits of the deep seabed” and “Credit Suisse will not provide any lending or capital markets underwriting to companies that are primarily engaged in the exploration or extraction of mineral deposits from the deep seabed.”