WWF welcomes growing resistance to deep seabed mining

Posted on 31 March 2023

WWF applauds the growing number of states calling for a pause, ban or moratorium on deep seabed mining as two weeks of meetings at the International Seabed Authority wrap up today.
At the International Seabed Authority (ISA) meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, states, civil society, scientists, youth and Indigenous leaders called for precaution and pushed back on the idea of issuing licenses to mine the deep seabed before we have the requisite science to make informed decisions.

This is part of a growing chorus that began at the UN Ocean Conference in July last year, where Palau, Fiji and Samoa formally announced an alliance calling for a global moratorium on deep seabed mining.

This is especially important this year, as an artificial deadline known as the “two-year rule” has been imposed upon the global community by the island state of Nauru, which is sponsoring a mining company that has already begun testing equipment to start operations in the Pacific. 

On June 25, 2021, the president of Nauru submitted a letter to the ISA requesting the organization to finalize rules and regulations so it could submit an mining application in two years, with a deadline of 9 July 2023. 

“The two-year rule was meant to be a ‘safety valve,’ in case negotiations reach an impasse. It was not intended to put arbitrary deadlines on substantive, good faith negotiations,” Jessica Battle, the lead for WWF’s global No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative said. “The world must not be pushed into a destructive new extractive industry by a reckless few who stand to profit.” 

Rather than mining one of the planet’s last untouched wildernesses, investments need to go to a fully circular economy with a smaller footprint on the natural world. A WWF-commissioned report, “The Future Is Circular: Circular Economy and Critical Minerals for the Green Transition”, offers models that show the demand for critical minerals can be reduced by 58% from now to 2050 with new technology, circular economy models and recycling.

WWF is calling for governments to take a stand for the ocean and our planet. The year 2023 is a pivotal year for the deep sea and for the International Seabed Authority. Extraction must not go ahead until the environmental, social and economic risks are understood, all alternatives to deep-sea minerals have been fully explored, and comprehensive measures are in place that ensure the effective protection of the marine environment. 

The voices urging caution on deep seabed mining are growing stronger. During the ISA meeting two new states have called for a precautionary pause: Vanuatu and the Dominican Republic. They join Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Samoa and Spain in supporting a pause, moratorium or ban.

The calls for precaution stem from a lack of scientific knowledge about the deep sea, among other reasons. Scientists advise that we are decades from having enough knowledge about this important area of our planet to enable evidence-based decision making on deep seabed mining. They are also clear that any deep seabed mining operation will cause significant and long-lasting damage to the deep sea.

We call for inclusive dialogue that has wide stakeholder and observer participation in ISA council and assembly meetings, including and giving space to youth and Indigenous peoples. In addition, we urge developed countries to consider providing financial support, as appropriate, to ensure that all states are able to participate in the important decisions over the next months and years on the common heritage of humankind.
Stop Deep Seabed Mining