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Moratorium on deep sea mining urged
Author: Luke Hunt, The West Australian, Published on: 21 May 2020
20 May 2020
A coalition of 80 NGOs are pushing for an international moratorium on deep sea mining after a scientific report warned of potential irreversible damage to Pacific island states including Kiribati, the Cook Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and Tuvalu.
"The accumulated scientific evidence indicates that the impacts of nodule mining in the Pacific Ocean would be extensive, severe and last for generations, causing essentially irreversible damage," the report, commissioned by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign and MiningWatch Canada, found.
Polymetallic nodules are potato-sized lumps formed by layers of iron and manganese hydroxides around a core in the seabed and contain cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese that are used in batteries where demand is constantly rising in high-tech industries.
"Expectations that nodule mining would generate social and economic gains for Pacific island economies are based on conjecture," it said. "The impacts of mining on communities and people's health are uncertain and require rigourous independent studies."
The 52-page report entitled "Predicting the Impacts of Mining Deep Sea Polymetallic Nodules in the Pacific Ocean" provides a scientific consensus based on 250 peer reviewed scientific and other related articles.
It says deep sea mining will have severe and long-lasting impact on fish species and could pose significant risks to marine ecosystems more broadly while the impact on fisheries, communities and human health are largely unknown and thus pose risks.
To date, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) - tasked by the United Nations - has issued 30 international exploration licenses, 25 in the Pacific Ocean and 18 of those in the Clarion Clipperton Zone which stretches from Kiribati to Mexico.
European, Japanese and Korean companies are among the most prominent alongside Australian company Bluewater Metals, according to the ISA.