UK Government must not undermine Global Ocean Treaty by greenlighting deep sea mining


Kingston, Jamaica, 16 March – The 28th Session of the International Seabed Authority starts today with world delegates gathering in Kingston, Jamaica less than two weeks after the Global Ocean Treaty was agreed at the United Nations. The meeting is a critical moment for the future of the oceans as deep sea mining companies are rushing the start of this risky industry.

“If the UK government wants to show global leadership on ocean protection, it must reconsider its position on deep sea mining and call for a ban at these talks. Encouraging governments to greenlight deep sea mining would grossly undermine the stance the UK took as a progressive party at the historic UN Ocean Treaty in New York less than two weeks ago. Science, businesses and Pacific campaigners have already said deep sea mining is not compatible with a sustainable and fair future and Greenpeace campaigners are standing alongside them in Kingston. The UK must use its influence at these talks to ensure the deep sea remains protected. Governments must stop this reckless industry before it starts,” said Ariana Densham, Head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK. 

The ISA’s mandate is to preserve the international seabed and control all mineral-related activities [1]. However, the deep sea mining industry has forced governments’ hands, using an obscure and controversial legal loophole to set an ultimatum for governments. 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 [2]. 

“The 2 year-ultimatum puts the interests of the few over the many and would make it impossible for governments to fulfil their key obligation to protect the oceans. This makes it even more urgent to adopt a moratorium on deep sea mining. Many governments have voiced unease at pressure to rush vital political negotiations over equity and ocean health. The future of half the surface of the planet has to be decided in the best interests of humanity – not the timeframe imposed by a company running out of cash,” said Sebastian Losada, Senior Oceans Policy Adviser for Greenpeace International, attending the talks.

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise arrived in Kingston early this morning. Joining the crew and Greenpeace delegation are Pacific activists campaigning on deep sea mining who have not previously been given a platform at the ISA meeting to express their views, despite this being a decision that could shape their future. These activists will participate as observers in the ISA meeting and will address governments directly [3]. 

“Our ancestors have taught us the value of being ‘Mana Tiaki’, guardians where we protect our natural resources for the future generations. Back home in the Cook Islands we are actively working with local communities to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of mining the seabed, whilst working towards a moratorium. To be here and voice our concerns as a collective indigenous delegation from the pacific is a well overdue opportunity the ISA has been missing over the duration of their meetings.”, said Alanna Matamaru Smith from Te Ipukarea Society on board the Arctic Sunrise.

Governments must push back on this timeline set by this controversial ultimatum in the next two weeks and ensure mining doesn’t go ahead in the next few months. But deep sea mining will continue to pose a threat even after the two year deadline, and countries must work for a moratorium on deep sea mining, which could be agreed at the ISA Assembly made up of 167 States plus the European Union. The next ISA Assembly meeting will take place in July 2023 in Kingston, Jamaica. 


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[1] The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea established the ISA in 1994 to regulate activities in the seabed in international waters, which it declared “the common heritage of mankind”.

[2] 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 deep sea 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. 

[3] Pacific activists will also speak at a Greenpeace International side event on 24 March

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