THE Secretariat of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), in response to public perceptions that there is a lack of consensus on deep-sea mining, says that the whole discussion is based on several misunderstandings.
The deep sea is a potential source of valuable minerals such as copper, cobalt, nickel, manganese — all essential for making wind turbines, solar panels, and electric car batteries.
Supporters of deep-sea mining argue that it’s necessary and greener than land mining because it’s free of waste, carbon emissions, and human right abuses. However, experts say scrapping the ocean floor could destroy habitats, wiping out entire species.
The International Seabed Authority, comprising 167 member states plus the European Union, is charged with ensuring the protection of life in the deep from any proposed mining activities.
ISA told the Jamaica Observer that, following the meeting with member nations over deep-sea mining in March 2022, much of what has been publicly said is factually inaccurate and misleading.
ISA states, “Deep-seabed mining has not started and will not start until the necessary regulatory framework is adopted by the 168 members of ISA.”
Regulations permitting mining have been passed but those technical rules relating to exploitation are yet to be worked out, it is outlined. Once consensus has been reached on these details the regulations will be formally adopted.
ISA denies that there is any deep-sea mining now occurring and states, “Deep-sea mining in the international seabed area could not” [have] been undermining the health of the ocean, and mining activities cannot be “suspended all together”, as they have not started.
Online resources (Wikipedia) states, “Deep-sea mining is a growing sub-field of experimental seabed mining that involves the retrieval of minerals and deposits from the ocean floor found at depths of 200 metres or greater. As of 2021, the majority of marine mining efforts are limited to shallow coastal waters only, where sand, tin and diamonds are more readily accessible.”
Greenpeace reached out to the Jamaica Observer, expressing doubt about ISA, its motives and transparency. The body communicated that the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), supported by Norway, the Netherlands, Chile, Pew, Italy, and Costa Rica, is calling for a permanent ban. It is expected the matter will be discussed again in the ISA’s July 2022 meeting.
ISA told the Business Observer, “The core mandate of ISA under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is to regulate exploration and mineral-related activities in the international seabed area (also called the “Area”), and it is entrusted by its member states to take the necessary measures to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment.”
In addition to stringent regulations, this includes advancing marine scientific research, capacity development for nationals of developing states which are members of ISA, and incorporating the best scientific evidence and applicable standards for the protection and preservation of the marine environment for the benefit of humankind.
ISA further notes that regulations governing exploration of the international seabed have been adopted already.
The body explained, “The challenge now is to make the transition to exploitation, through transparent deliberations with members and other relevant stakeholders, which must reflect best international standards and practices as well as agreed principles of sustainable development.”
ISA has been working on regulations for the exploitation of deep-seabed minerals since 2014. The regulations will be formally adopted once all 168 members reach consensus on their content.
As to the claim by Greenpeace that the workings of ISA’s technical and decision-making bodies are shrouded in mystery, ISA stated, “ISA is committed to ensuring transparency in pursuit of this goal, and that is why all public meetings are streamed live over the Internet in our six official languages. As of today ISA has granted observer status to 94 entities, including 34 non-governmental organisations, similarly to ensure transparency and enable media — and thus the public through the media in its role to educate and inform — to understand the true nature of its activities.”
ISA says local Jamaican media have been lax in pursuing the issues and need to do more.
ISA told the Business Observer, “The 50 national and international staff of ISA, including scientific and technical experts, are proud to be hosted here in Jamaica and always welcome the opportunity to share information about their work.”
ISA states, “Nothing is hidden from view, and a wealth of information is already available on our website at www.isa.org.jm.”