Canada under pressure to ban deep-sea mining as global ocean summit starts in Vancouver

Canada's National Observer

Rochelle Baker, Canada's National Observer

Canada is under increasing pressure to declare a moratorium on seabed mining just as federal leaders are set to host an international marine conservation summit.

More than 700 international scientists and a multitude of environmental organizations are calling on Canada to ban the search for deep-sea minerals in its own waters and show global leadership by joining a chorus of countries, such as France, Germany, Chile and Pacific Island nations, in calling for a mining ban in shared international waters. The country will host the fifth International Marine Protected Area Congress (IMPAC5) starting Friday in Vancouver.

Seabed mining is the hot-button political issue coming into the conference, said Susanna Fuller, a vice-president of Oceans North

“It's kind of the environmental decision of our time because it signals that we understand that [resource] exploitation, as we have done it in the past, is no longer acceptable.”


A large protest against deep sea mining is taking place at IMPAC5 on Saturday, said Catherine Coumans of Mining Watch Canada.

More than 70 per cent of Canadians oppose deep-sea mining, according to an independent survey commissioned by SeaBlue Canada, a national coalition of Canadian ocean conservation groups, Coumans said.

The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a section of ocean floor as wide as the United States that spans 4.5 million square kilometres of the Pacific between Mexico and Hawaii, is most immediately at risk, she said.

Undercover footage from the latest deep-sea mining tests in the CCZ, conducted by Canadian mining outfit The Metals Company (TMC) and its Swiss operating partner and shareholder AllSeas, showed wastewater sucked up from the seabed was dumped directly onto the sea’s surface.

The footage, obtained by Greenpeace International and Mining Watch Canada, depicted cloudy wastewater containing rock debris and sediment that could potentially impact marine life pouring from the side of the ship, Coumans said.

Scientists contracted to monitor the tests cited concerns around equipment failures, poor sampling practices and flaws in the companies’ science monitoring system, Coumans said.

What’s more, scientists were asked to take water samples from areas outside the debris plume’s path. The footage and concerns were released anonymously by some scientists worried about repercussions for whistleblowing, she said.


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