How people power is stopping deep sea mining before it starts

Thanks to campaigners, activists and supporters like you worldwide, the deep sea mining industry didn’t get the green light it was expecting at talks in July. Now we need to make sure these destructive companies never get the chance to plunder our fragile ocean floor.


Our community genuinely spans the globe. From Senegal to São Paolo and Canada to the Cook Islands, millions of Greenpeace supporters and allies take action every day to create a fairer, greener and safer future. In the summer, we saw yet again just how powerful that can be.

July was a pivotal moment to stop deep sea mining companies sinking their metallic teeth into the ocean floor. Talks were planned at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Jamaica that could have ended with the industry being given a green light for the first time. Meaning our oceans would have become a wild west for extractive industries and the site of the largest mining operation in history.

Some people thought it was a done deal. Before the talks, the CEO of The Metals Company – one of the key players desperate to start churning up the seabed for profit – said there was a “0.1 of one percent chance” that mining would be blocked. But he hadn’t reckoned with people like you.

From above, people lie on a sandy beach to create a giant banner saying 'Stop deep sea mining' and make the shape of an octopus.

Greenpeace volunteers in Senegal create a human banner in the shape of an octopus, to highlight the irreversible damage that the Deep Sea Mining would cause to the deep ocean floor, of one of the last untouched ecosystem on earth, once approved. © Greenpeace

Why is deep sea mining a threat to our oceans?

Deep sea mining is a disaster that should never be allowed to happen. Our fragile underwater world is still mostly untouched and unexplored by humans. The deep sea mining industry wants to lower gigantic machines, each one weighing more than a blue whale, down to the seabed to carve out metals like cobalt and nickel.

These underwater bulldozers would fill the ocean with light and noise pollution and plumes of sediment that spread for miles. These would be a nightmare for deep-sea creatures like vampire squid and dumbo octopuses, and also for dolphins, turtles and sharks that journey through our global oceans to feed and mate.

A creature with many tendrils like whiskers coming out of its face, which is orange and white with two googly eyes sticking out either side and a thin
A semi-transparent sea creature with big eyes and small fins hangs in a black void. It's cute and strange looking

Public pressure changed the direction of recent talks

Despite this devastating threat, the ISA talks on deep sea mining had attracted very little attention. But then Greenpeace supporters worldwide got to work. After we raised the alarm, 800,000 people signed our petition to stop deep sea mining and 3171 donated an incredible £202,470 to our deep sea mining appeal.

Greenpeace delegates at the talks immediately saw the impact of this public pressure. Negotiators started getting calls from their governments back home, telling them to respond to public anger. Countries including Canada and Switzerland changed their positions, expressing new concerns about mining. Countries that were already opposed to mining – like Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile and France – refused to give in to industry lobbying.

Don’t ever underestimate your ability to influence international talks like these.

Peaceful protest and unity with Pacific Indigenous communities

At every stage of this campaign, we’ve worked with Pacific Indigenous communities determined to stop deep sea mining before it starts.

At the talks in Jamaica, campaigners from Aotearoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands joined our delegation. They spoke directly to delegates on the conference floor, asking one vital question: ‘Who gave you permission?’

At the same time, Greenpeace campaigners in Dover, Mexico City and Toronto projected films of Pacific community members’ stories directly onto local landmarks – raising awareness of how much is at stake if we sacrifice our seabed.

“The current rise of deep sea mining, not only just in the Pacific but globally, raises much concern – a concern that reminds us of the legacies that our generation has felt. It reminds us of a form of colonisation. It draws us back to the eras of nuclear testing. We call all stewards of the ocean to rise and protect our ocean.”
Joey Tau, Papua New Guinea/Fiji
Portrait of Joey Tau
“The future can be found in the wisdom of the past. The wisdom of the past says work with nature, so I encourage everybody to take a look at what deep sea mining is, because one person can make a difference.”
Ekolu Lindsey, Hawaii
Portrait of Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III
“So the responsibility we have as Indigenous Hawaiians based on our creation is to care for all things that precede us. We feel that deep sea mining is a process that will be intruding into the place of creation, and that is something that we cannot support.”
Solomon Pili Kaho’ohalahala, Hawaii
Portrait of Solomon
Light beams onto a cliff face at night, revealing a portrait next to the words 'Be better stewards of our ocean'
Billboard advert on a street corner. The advert reads 'One ocean. One Planet. Our future. You decide. Hashtag stop deep sea mining' with images of deep sea creatures alongside.

Projections on the White Cliffs of Dover in the UK and billboard adverts on a street corner in Kingston in Jamaica, both calling for a halt to deep sea mining.

The deep sea mining talks were a win for people power

With pressure building from every direction, the countries pushing for deep sea mining were riled. New restrictions were suddenly introduced at the talks to limit peaceful protest. Media access was limited too. But it was too late. With manufacturers from BMW to Samsung already having said they wouldn’t use metals from the seabed, the world was now waking up to the destruction deep sea mining would cause.

By the end of the talks, the deep sea mining industry was shell shocked. The ISA Council refused to fast track deep sea mining or agree the regulations that would have allowed mining to begin. Companies had been banking on these negotiations marking the start of deep sea mining, but they hadn’t been able to force their wishes through.

Not only that, but 21 governments had called for a pause or ban on deep sea mining. So had over 750 scientists, 37 financial institutions and fishing industry leaders. In the UK, Ecotricity became the first energy supplier to oppose deep sea mining. And shares in The Metal Company – whose CEO had been so confident that the dawn of deep sea mining was here – fell by over 30%.

But we can’t let the pressure drop

All this positive news adds up to another victory for people power – but we’re nowhere near done yet.

You helped to stop deep sea mining in July. But industry leaders are now lobbying harder than ever to plough up the seabed, and the UK government is happy for that to happen. What we really need is a permanent ban, and it’ll take all of our combined power to achieve that. Together we’ll put deep sea mining in the dustbin, forever.

Two Greenpeace activists in an inflatable boat on the ocean, with a big ship in the background. One stands holding a a banner that says 'Stop deep sea mining', while the other drives the boat.

Greenpeace climbers staged a peaceful protest on the UK ship James Cook after it returned from seven weeks exploring an area of the Pacific targeted
by mining companies. The deep sea teems with coral and species like the deep sea jellyfish, globehead grenadier and glass octopus, and we cannot endanger them for profit. © Marten van Dijl / Greenpeace

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of Connect, a magazine for Greenpeace supporters. Join us with a regular monthly donation of £2 or more to receive your copy of Connect magazine.

What's next?