Pacific Island Governments Cautioned on Seabed Mining

deepsea minerals

Published Feb 19, 2019 7:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (PIANGO) has cautioned Pacific Islands government on the risks of seabed mining to marine environments, cultures and livelihoods.

PIANGO Executive Director Emele Duituturaga has called for a ban on seabed mining saying it is becoming increasingly clear that the blue growth narrative by International organizations includes seabed mining despite threats to fisheries and ocean livelihoods in the region.

She said there is greater awareness now that biodiversity and life under the sea will be affected, and these minerals that have taken thousands of years to deposit will be extracted without replenishment.

“Therefore we are urging our governments to be responsible on this issue and not make hasty decisions, have a clear understanding of what is involved .” Duituturaga said.

A three-day capacity building workshop was run on deep seabed mining in Tonga last week as part of a process of preparing countries that are members of the International Seabed Authority for the Authority’s Regulation on Deep Seabed Mining to be put in place in 2020. Speaking before the workshop, International Seabed Authority Secretary-General Michael Lodge said: “For the Pacific Island countries fully dependent on the ocean for their survival, deep sea mineral resources have the potential to expand their resource base, build capacity and expertise and make an essential contribution to the development of their sustainable Blue Economy.”  

In his opening statement at the workshop, Lodge highlighted that the Pacific region has been at the forefront when it comes to developing a sustainable deep-sea minerals industry and promoting good governance of marine resources. “Pacific Island countries, more than any others, understand very well that it is possible to use marine resources sustainably whilst also fulfilling their responsibilities to the marine environment,” he said. “We need to turn natural capital into human capital, to improve living conditions and to create a better world for future generations.”

He noted that Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Cook Islands have conducted or are currently undertaking promising mineral exploration projects in national waters.

However, Duituturaga is skeptical: “This workshop is pedaling deep sea mining to our governments but who will benefit?  If mining was the panacea to the economic issues of the Pacific, we’d have solved all our problems long ago. Instead the environmental and social impacts of mining have made our peoples poorer,” she said.

To date, 29 contracts for exploration have been signed with the International Seabed Authority and two more applications are in the pipeline. 

The International Seabed Authority's role

The International Seabed Authority is an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. A principal function of the International Seabed Authority is to regulate deep seabed mining, giving special emphasis to ensuring that the marine environment is protected. One of its first priorities was the formulation of the Regulations for Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules to ensure environmentally sustainable development of seabed mineral resources.

The Secretariat of the Authority also carries out detailed resource assessments of the areas reserved for the Authority; maintains a specialized Database (POLYDAT) of data on the resources of the international seabed area and monitors the current status of scientific knowledge of the deep sea marine environment.