Vancouver protesters call for deep-sea mining ban at ocean conservation conference


Protesters in Vancouver called for a ban on deep sea mining on Saturday at a global ocean conservation conference where delegates from 123 countries are working to figure out how to protect 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030.

Advocates hope that delegates will also make it a priority to call for a moratorium on deep sea mining — pitting the desire for a rich source of critical minerals against fears of destroying what may be an important area of global biodiversity.

Vancouver’s The Metals Company (TMC) is leading the charge to unearth critical metals, some up to six kilometres below the water’s surface, for use in technologies such as electric vehicles.

TMC and other firms eager to mine argue that deep-sea metals are urgently needed for the clean-energy transition. Those opposed, including environmental groups and some Pacific nations, say moving too quickly is likely to risk a sea floor ecosystem that too little is known about.

‘A critical misstep,’ Ocean alliance says

“This could potentially be one of the largest carbon sinks on our planet, and yet we want to move forward with destroying it without having the scientific backing,” said Mark Haver with Sustainable Ocean Alliance. 

“That is a critical misstep on a planet that is already experiencing so much vulnerability.”

With signs and banners advocating for miners to stay off the seabed, Haver and dozens of others gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre where the 5th annual International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5) has been taking place.

A mining machine is lowered into the sea to extract minerals from the seabed in the Okinawa Trough off Japan. (Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy)

The protesters then marched through the downtown core of the city to the TMC’s headquarters chanting, “deep sea mining will fail, our planet’s not for sale.”

There is pressure on Canada to join a number of countries that have asked the United Nations-affiliated International Seabed Authority — which was struck to regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed — to push back a summer deadline to enact mining regulations.

Some countries have vowed to not approve mining contracts until there is a sufficient amount of environmental protections in place for the Earth’s seabed.

TMC says it has common cause with the protesters

In a statement to CBC News, TMC acknowledged the protest and said the company shared some common goals with the protesters, such as combating climate change and protecting biodiversity.

TMC maintains deep sea mining is an important and less-intensive option to produce metals now desperately needed.

“To build a low-carbon future, society will need to mine more metal in the next few decades than in all of human history,” it said.

A sea cucumber on the deep ocean floor in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean, where mining companies want to exploit polymetallic nodules rich in cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese. (Diva Amon and Craig Smith/Abyssal Baseline Project)

“Where do you think this metal should come from, given that there is far too little metal in circulation for recycling to support this transition in the near-to-medium term?”

Some studies have shown that demand could be met with known land-based sources and increased recycling.

On Saturday at the conference, Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May held a media event to call on the federal government to protect marine biodiversity and focus on efforts to improve the supply of minerals through land-based sources and through recycling.

“Its a false dichotomy to claim if you want to have electric cars you have to rape the ocean floor to do it,” she said. 2023-02-05 06:30:54


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