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29 Jun 2021

Helen Reid, Reuters

Nauru: Government and The Metals Company seek approval for deep-sea mining plans

"Pacific island of Nauru sets two-year deadline for deep-sea mining rules", 29 June 2021

The tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru has requested approval for deep-sea mining plans for a subsidiary of The Metals Co, giving the U.N. International Seabed Authority (ISA) two years to decide on rules for the new and controversial industry...

Nauru is a sponsoring state for Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Metals Co, formerly known as DeepGreen...

But differences remain between ISA member states over the regulations and no agreement has been reached on a royalty regime for deep-sea minerals, said Duncan Currie, an international lawyer who has attended the ISA since 2012.

The Metals Co, which has previously said it aims to start mining in 2024, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Deep-sea mining would extract cobalt, copper, nickel, and manganese - key battery materials - from potato-sized rocks called "polymetallic nodules" which pepper the sea floor at depths of 4-6 km (2.5-4 miles)...Resources on the international seabed are defined as the common heritage of mankind under U.N. law, so benefits of deep-sea mining are meant to be shared among all countries - not just those sponsoring a mining company - but how those benefits should be shared is still being debated...

Nauru...said...that more than 80% of its land had been made uninhabitable by colonial-era phosphate mining and said deep-sea mining was more sustainable. The Metals Co has said deep-sea mining would be a cleaner way to source battery metals, saying it would produce less waste and fewer emissions than land mining.

Some environmentalists and scientists have called for a ban, saying too little is known about deep-sea ecosystems and mining could wipe out as-yet undiscovered species.