Deep sea mining talks resume. Calls for moratorium grow louder


Kingston, Jamaica, 10 July 2023 — From today, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) will bring governments together in Kingston to discuss whether to allow deep sea mining to go ahead.

Failure to reach an agreement in previous meetings means that yesterday, on July 9, a controversial deadline passed meaning any mining company can submit an application to mine despite no regulations being in place to govern it[1]. But a coalition of governments, including Chile, France, Palau and Vanuatu, is pushing back and, for the first time in history, is requesting the ISA Assembly discuss a proposal for a long term suspension on this dangerous activity.

Download a full UK media brief on the ISA conference here.

The proposal, put forward by this cross-regional coalition, highlights that governments have an obligation to act to protect the marine environment from harm caused by deep sea mining, and that government decisions at the ISA must uphold, not undermine, their international climate and biodiversity commitments and the precautionary principle.

Speaking from the ISA conference, Greenpeace France Oceans campaigner François Chartier, said: “Reckless mining companies were hoping that by now they’d be seeing a new dawn for the industry, since the ISA has left the backdoor open for deep sea mining to start. But deep sea miners have seriously underestimated the level of controversy and resistance to their attempt to force through the start of this destructive practice.”

We’re seeing an unprecedented wave of governments voicing concerns about the impacts of deep sea mining. A few weeks ago Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland came out calling for precautionary pause [3]. Pacific activists and scientists have also been sounding the alarm about this threat to the oceans. Meanwhile, Norway has not only consistently enabled the industry’s agenda to determine the decision-making process at the ISA, but also recently announced plans to open its continental shelf to deep sea mining [4]. This stands in stark contradiction to being a leader of the International Ocean Panel and shows an alarming level of discredit towards the growing scientific warnings about the impact this industry could cause [5].

François Chartier continued: “Right now, there’s very little standing between the natural wonders of the deep ocean and the mining machines, but more governments are listening to the science and stepping up efforts to stop deep sea mining from starting this year. However, a handful of laggards are doing the opposite. It’s a matter of urgency that states gathered in Kingston give these unique and unknown areas the protection they need from this destructive industry.”

The UK government states its approach to deep sea mining is “precautionary and conditional”, but it has so far refused to back a moratorium. This is despite the government’s own 2019 independent evidence review of deep sea mining which found the impacts are likely to remain for centuries and extend for thousands of kilometres in the ocean. The inconsistency of its international leadership on ocean protection has been exposed this morning, after the main UK opposition party, the Labour Party, announced support for a precautionary pause on deep sea mining.

Ariana Densham, Head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK, said: “If the UK government is to uphold its stated ‘precautionary and conditional’ approach, it needs to get off the fence and actively seek safeguards against the real possibility that deep sea mining could start as early as this year. That means joining the growing list of governments already calling for a moratorium – at this stage anything else would be completely reckless.”



[1] In 2021, the president of Nauru together with The Metals Company’s subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources,  triggered the “two-year rule” that puts pressure on governments at the ISA to allow deep sea mining to start by July 2023. This request was made under paragraph 15 of Section 1 of the Annex to the Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which establishes that if any member country notifies the ISA that it wants to start deepsea mining, the organisation will have two years to adopt full regulations, after which time, if the regulations have not been completed, the ISA will have to consider a mining application. The ISA’s deadline to adopt full regulations ends this July, and the legal process after the deadline is passed is subject to political and legal debate. 

[2]  Supplementary list of agenda items for the twenty-eighth session of the Assembly 

[3] Swiss want moratorium on deep-sea mining & Sweden says no to deep sea mining before more knowledge is available

[4] Norway moves to open its waters to deep-sea mining

[5] Leading Scientists Urge Moratorium on Deep-Sea Mining: Explore Recycling and Terrestrial Resources First


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