Deep sea mining threatens global waters, seabed authority lets it: Greenpeace

The international non-profit raises concerns on the International Seabed Authority’s role and competence

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 03 July 2019
Only three per cent of the oceans have not been altered by human activity, according to the report. Photo: Getty Images

Only one per cent of international waters are properly protected from multiple industrial activities in the absence of a global ocean treaty, according to a report by Greenpeace.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), tasked with regulating mining activities in the seabed, has granted 29 exploration contracts for industrial-level mining of polymetallic nodules, sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, added the report.

These contracts are spread over around a million square kilometres of the international seabed. Countries sponsoring these activities include United Kingdom, China, France, Belgium, India, Germany and Russia.

The role of ISA has been questioned by many parliamentarians in UK who had raised concerns about its conflict of interest in 2018. They alleged that ISA will benefit from the mining revenue. 

“There is even a provision for the ISA to become, in effect, a mining company itself, carrying out deep-sea mining on behalf of humanity as ‘Enterprise’,” according to the report Protect the Oceans.

Greenpeace also accused ISA of lobbying for a weaker Global Ocean Treaty. The ISA, at the formal negotiations for the treaty in September 2018, argued that its competence in regulating seabed mining should not be challenged and it asked for “exclusive mandate” to regulate the international seafloor, added the report.

The seabed authority also assured delegates that the existing system is sufficient to protect wildlife, when it is a known fact that marine biodiversity is declining, the report alleged. Only three per cent of the oceans have not been altered by human activity, added the report.

While highlighting the “emerging threat of deep sea mining”, the report stressed on the fact that if deep sea mining goes on at industrial scale without proper protection it can ruin species and ecosystem.

If the unexplored world under the sea is devastated, it is not clear if it can be restored, added the report. It cited examples of cold water coral reefs devastated by bottom trawling in the 1960s.

“A strong Global Ocean Treaty is needed to protect the hidden treasures of the deep sea from reckless exploitation,” suggested Greenpeace in the report.

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