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Blog Entry

Global Support for a Moratorium or Ban on Deep Seabed Mining

Catherine Coumans

Ph.D. Research Coordinator and Asia-Pacific Program Coordinator

Canadians call on the Government of Canada to join global citizens, scientists, governments, corporations, and financial institutions in supporting a moratorium or ban on deep seabed mining.

In Canada: 

  • Joint NGO Letter - In February 2021, MiningWatch Canada and Oceans North sent a letter to six Government of Canada Ministers on behalf of 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.
  • Parliamentary Petition - In December 2021, Member of Parliament Gord 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.” The petition is currently open for sign-on here.
  • House of Commons - In December 2021, Member of Parliament Gord 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.
  • Film - In December 2021, award-winning filmmaker Julia Barnes released Canada’s first short video called Deep Sea Mining: What could it do to the Ocean?

Globally: 

Pacific Blue Line

Six Pacific-based organizations, calling themselves Deep Sea Minders, have taken a stance on Deep Seabed Mining: “Pacific Deep Sea Mining is Not Needed, Not Wanted, Not Consented!” Their statement has been endorsed by over 100 organizations worldwide.

Scientists

Marine Experts call for a Moratorium. This statement has been signed by 622 marine science and policy experts from over 44 countries calling for a moratorium on deep seabed mining. Among the signatories are world-renowned marine experts such as Sylvia Earle and marine scientists of the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative, which actively participates in the proceedings of, and provides input to, the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

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 by marine experts commissioned by the High Level Panel:    

  • 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 the 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 have started to call for moratoriums and bans on deep seabed mining in their own territorial waters and for mining in international waters. See, for example:

  • Fiji - 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 in August 2019. The Governments of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu indicated their support for this call (Chin & Hari, 2020, p. 42).
  • 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.
  • Portugal - The Portuguese Minister of the Sea reportedly stated that “deep-sea mining would compromise the archipelago’s biodiversity.”
  • Tristan da Cunha - Recently, the UK overseas territory Tristan da Cunha banned seabed mining in its territorial waters.
  • Canary Islands - The Parliament of the Canary Islands has called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining in international waters.
  • Washington State in the USA – The Washington State legislature has banned deep sea mining in its territorial waters.
  • Guam – In a letter dated 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.”

Corporations

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
  • Google
  • Volvo Group
  • Philips
  • Patagonia
  • Scania
  • Triodos Bank
  • Volkswagen

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
  • Fairphone
  • Ford Motor Company
  • General Motors Company
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Ørsted
  • Rio Grande, Inc.
  • Schaeffler Group
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Vivara

Financial Institutions

The following financial institutions prohibit or restrict investments in or financing of deep sea mining:

  • ABN AMRO
  • Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A.
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • NatWest Group
  • Standard Chartered Bank