The International Seabed Authority [ISA] will start accepting applications in July from companies that
want to mine the ocean’s floor, a decision that has come after the
UN body spent the past two weeks debating standards for the
new and controversial practice.
Deep-sea mining would extract cobalt, copper, nickel, and
manganese — key battery materials — from potato-sized rocks
called “polymetallic nodules” on the ocean’s floor at depths of
4 to 6 kilometres.
They are abundant in the
Clarion-Clipperton Zone [CCZ] in the North Pacific Ocean between
Hawaii and Mexico.
The ISA’s governing council formulated a draft decision on
Thursday after meeting in Jamaica that allows companies to file
permit applications starting on July 9, a deadline set in motion
by actions the island nation of Nauru took in 2021, according to
a copy seen by Reuters news agency.
The ISA’s staff would then have three business days to
inform the council.
The council plans to meet virtually before
July to debate further whether approval of such applications
could be delayed once received, according to the document.
READ MORE: WWF chief blasts plans to mine deep sea
Greenpeace slams decision
“This deeply irresponsible outcome is a wasted opportunity
to send a clear signal … that the era of ocean destruction is
over”, said Louisa Casson of Greenpeace, which opposes the
practice due in part to concerns it could harm whales and other
The Metals Co, which has a deal to supply metals to
Glencore Plc, is one of the most prominent voices
advocating for the practice. Its executives have repeatedly said
they believe deep-sea mining would have less impact than
traditional mining for battery metals on land.
China is a leader in deep-sea mining exploration, but Chile,
France, Palau and Fiji, among other nations, have called for a
global moratorium on the practice, citing environmental concerns
and a lack of sufficient scientific data.
Industrial exploitation of nickel, cobalt or copper is not expected to begin until the adoption of a mining code that has been under discussion for nearly 10 years — including at the latest talks in Kingston.
For years, non-governmental organisations and scientists have warned about the damage seabed mining could inflict on deep-sea ecosystems.
Countries are increasingly echoing that concern: Canada, Australia and Belgium among others have insisted that international seabed mining cannot begin without strict rules.
“Brazil believes the current level of knowledge and best available science are insufficient to approve any seabed mining projects in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” Ambassador Elza Moreira Marcelino de Castro said at the ISA council meeting.