The International Seabed Authority has postponed to the 30 second session, between 2 years, the yes to the deep sea mining
(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – Postponement of 2 years for the formal ok but no global moratorium on deep sea mining. The latest and highly anticipated annual meeting of the ISA, the International Seabed Authority, has chosen not to give the green light to mines on the ocean floor in international waters despite pressure from many countries. But it has not closed the door to the exploitation of these deposits by announcing a moratorium, as demanded by the opposing countries.
What decided the ISA on the mines on the ocean floor
After two weeks of negotiations, the agency acting on a UN mandate preferred to take time. The laconicity of the final document – 2 pages, 4 points – masks all the complexity of negotiations that have been going on for years and on which the conservation of some of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet depends.
The ISA “intends to continue the development of rules, regulations and procedures relating to exploitation“, reads point 1, “with a view to their adoption during the 30th session of the Authority”. Session is scheduled for July 2025. However, the language used is not peremptory. The “with a view to“, only indicates that it refers to a new date, non-binding, as the time horizon to finalize the regulation on deep sea mining. This was also confirmed by the president of the final meeting of the ISA Council, Juan Jose Gonzalez Mijares, talking about an “indicative target”.
Iron arm on deep sea mining
Thus falls into the void the attempt of Nauru launched exactly 2 years ago. In 2021 the small island country of the Pacific, which hopes to derive great wealth from the exploitation of mines on the ocean floor, had initiated a procedure within the ISA whereby the authority would take a decision on the undersea mines within two years.
The choice had been much debated because there are very few studies on the possible impact of this mining activity on the ecosystem of the deep ocean and the repercussions on the entire water column. And those that exist, made by independent scientists (that is, not for the sake of industry) indicate that the impact could be very heavy.
Last week, a new study had certified that just 2 hours of deep sea mining off Japan (in the Japanese exclusive economic zone, therefore in an area that does not fall under the scope of the ISA) had halved fish populations even 1 year away, both in that area and adjacent.
Fears and the need to have more information before giving the free all to the mining industry has brought some countries and institutions, including France and Germany in Europe and the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization, to call for a global moratorium until there is sufficient evidence to support a decision on deep sea mining.