WWF statement on move to fast-track deep seabed mining

Posted on June, 29 2021

Updated statement:

Gland, Switzerland, 30 June 2021: The small island state Nauru has invoked a rule that fast tracks deep seabed mining via a request to the International Seabed Authority (ISA).  WWF is extremely concerned about the decision and has issued an updated statement below:

Jessica Battle, leader of WWF’s No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative comments:

“By triggering the two year rule, Nauru is undermining the stakeholder consultation processes set in place to debate and negotiate regulations. Essentially, it is  fast-tracking deep seabed mining, and setting in motion potentially massive environmental destruction. 

“WWF urges ISA member states to show ocean leadership by putting in place a moratorium on deep seabed mining now. It is imperative to pause the unnecessary rush to the deep and allow science and innovation to help us switch to a truly sustainable economy. Governments  will be supported by an increasing number of scientists, NGOs, civil society organizations, companies and communities to make that decision.

“Forcing the regulations through prematurely and without due process or enough scientific knowledge about the deep sea is not in line with the precautionary approach and other principles of international environmental law. It would unnecessarily cause increased risk to the environment and to humankind. 

“The two year rule was included in the Law of the Sea Convention to ensure a possibility to move forward if a state had a company ready to mine, and in case there was a blockage in the process to develop the regulations. But there is no such blockage, and the Canadian company Nauru is sponsoring has not even submitted the required notification to the ISA to test equipment. There is no basis for invoking this rule now.

“We are also in the midst of a global pandemic, making it difficult for states to meet to properly discuss. At a time when states need to collaborate perhaps more than ever, this move is a blow to the multilateralism we need to solve the combined climate and biodiversity crises.

“The deep seabed mining lobby is creating their own narrative by choosing to portray only some of what we know and don’t know about the deep sea and the potential effects of deep seabed mining. They are selling a story – without evidence – that seabed mining is less harmful than land mining, and that companies need deep seabed minerals in order to produce electric cars, batteries and other items that reduce carbon emissions.

“Just last week, one of the companies pushing for a rapid opening of the seabed, and with Nauru as a sponsoring state, revealed it has knowingly ignored and belittled the increasing knowledge about the deep sea and its biodiversity, as well as the risks to ocean health from seabed mining. The company is in a merger process and has filed an application  to be listed on the Nasdaq, with a stated value of USD2.3bn. It is less clear what Nauru is set to gain, as there are huge risks of environmental liability involved.

“Prior to this, major brands BMW Group, Google, Volvo Group and Samsung SDI signed a pledge not to source deep seabed minerals.

“Over 350 scientists have voiced their support for a moratorium. However, the draft regulations are nowhere near ready for approval, and the draft standards and guidelines currently undergoing a consultation process are far from suitable for effectively protecting the marine environment and communities that depend on it.

“One of many concerns is the impact upon coastal communities, particularly in the Pacific, as deep seabed mining would likely cause massive sediment plumes that could affect crucial tuna and other fish stocks, thus further destabilizing livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of ocean dependent people and their communities. 

“The ocean is under mounting pressure and there is substantial evidence that we need to be embarking on an era of restoration, not further reckless exploitation. With much of the deep sea ecosystem yet to be explored and understood, deep seabed mining would be recklessly short-sighted. Those who are swayed by the false promise that deep seabed mining is a ‘green’ and attractive investment proposition need to think again and listen to the science. It is simply not the case.”



Background information:

  • Mining in water thousands of meters deep is expected to have destructive effects on vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems and lead to loss of biodiversity and species extinction. WWF’s recent report, “In Too Deep,” shows the projected large-scale destruction of the seabed could affect global fisheries and threaten carbon and nutrient cycles in the ocean. Given the slow pace of deep-sea processes, destroyed habitats are unlikely to recover within human timescales. What has been created over millions of years would be wiped out in a day.

  • The report highlighted that marine ecosystems are highly connected, and many species are migratory. Therefore, deep seabed mining cannot occur in isolation, and disturbances can easily cross jurisdictional boundaries. Negative effects on global fisheries would threaten the main protein source of around one billion people and the livelihoods of around 200 million people, many in poor coastal communities.

  • WWF and others calling for the moratorium are asking that deep seabed mining activities be put on hold until the environmental, social and economic risks are comprehensively understood; all alternatives to adding more minerals into the resource economy are exhausted; and it is clearly demonstrated that deep seabed mining can be managed in a way that ensures the effective protection of the marine environment and prevents loss of biodiversity.

  • WWF urges companies and investors to focus their attention on smart, resource-efficient and circular economy solutions, as well as ensuring responsible mining practices on land, that reduce environmental and social impacts. 


Media contact:
For further information, contact news@wwfint.org.

WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million followers and a global network active in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit panda.org/news for the latest news and media resources; follow us on Twitter @WWF_media 

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