Why the Rush for Seabed Mining? Intrigue, Collusion and Interesting Bedfellows

July 17, 2019 – Start-up companies are driving a speculative rush for seabed minerals in an unholy alliance with the very UN body charged with regulating them, the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

hard hitting report released today exposes blatant corporate capture of the ISA and the manipulation of Pacific regional decision-making processes by deep sea mining companies and their backers. It calls for a moratorium on the development of deep sea mining (DSM) regulations and the issuing of exploration and exploitation licences in international and national waters.

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Apparently shunning the ISA’s mandate to benefit all (hu)mankind, its Secretary General, Michael Lodge eagerly promotes the narrow commercial interests of wannabee deep sea miner, DeepGreen Metals. The UN body’s Secretary General obligingly advertises the company in marketing videos and advocates on their behalf to Pacific Island leaders.[1]

Aided and abetted by international donors, particularly the European Union, regional DSM regulatory processes have been fast tracked. This is before Pacific Island citizens, whose lives and livelihoods are intrinsically tied to the ocean, have had a chance to meaningfully discuss this unprecedented high-risk industry.

Entitled, ‘Why the Rush?’, the report describes how investors in struggling DSM start-up Nautilus Minerals[2] jumped ship early and used their speculative gains to establish DeepGreenNautilus now appears doomed[3] and has left in its wake the PNG Government facing a debt equivalent to one-third of the country’s annual health budget for 9 million people[4] and citizens angry that funds wasted on buying a stake in the company’s Solwara 1 mine, could have been spent on much needed infrastructure and services.[5]

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, Deep Sea Mining Campaign Coordinator, said, “The fate of Nautilus should send a salient warning to investors and to nations considering joint ventures with DeepGreen and other deep sea mining aspirants. It remains to be seen whether these companies will mine only the markets as Nautilus has done.”

“Either way, Pacific Island peoples stand to see little benefit and have much to lose. While the Pacific regional DSM regulatory framework conveys an impression of social licence, Pacific islanders are vocal in their opposition.”[6]  

Dr. Catherine Coumans, of MiningWatch Canada, stated, “The declining health of the world’s oceans is well documented, with warnings of alarming implications for human health, prosperity and long-term survival.[7] Given the urgency of the species extinction crisis we now face the last thing humanity needs is to hand the deep seabed over to a destructive industry that has proven itself to be so irresponsible on land.

“Rather, we need a moratorium on deep sea mining and on the development of seabed mining regulations. Society at large has not agreed to the emergence of this high-risk speculative industry that is driven by a narrow profit-focussed agenda of a handful of people.”

Andy Whitmore, of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, UK-based Finance Advocate questioned, “Why the rush to mine the sea floor, when transitioning to a Circular Economy and Urban Mining, represents the most financially and environmentally viable way forward? Research indicates it will be more lucrative, will deal with an intractable waste problem[8] as well as being capable of meeting future global mineral demand.[9]

“As noted in the May 2019 UN IPBES report, the continued pursuit of an industrial extraction-based economy runs counter to planetary survival. We must see industry and ISA spin for what it is and call a halt to the DSM madness.”

Download ‘Why the Rush’ report