The ISA is tasked with issuing rules that govern 54% of the world’s oceans. In July, it held a meeting in Jamaica to negotiate rules on deep-sea mining. At the meeting, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Vanuatu, Palau and several other countries called for a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining. The meeting ended with the decision to not give a green light for the start of industrial-scale deep-sea mining in international waters.
🌱 What happens next?
The ISA said it needed more time to finalize its new rules and now plans to adopt these in 2025. The ISA also said it plans to hold formal discussions on the protection of the marine environment next year. The council will now continue to work on setting environmental standards and potential royalty rates that will apply to mining contractors. It has yet to decide how it will respond to application requests filed before the new rules are published.
🌱 Is seabed exploration continuing?
The ISA has issued 31 permits for explorations in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans to date. Under these permits, sponsoring nations and their contractors can continue to collect small quantities of seabed rocks or cobalt-rich crusts for exploration purposes. As a part of the exploration, they must collect information on the environmental impacts of their activities.
🌱 What are the known environmental impacts of deep-sea mining?
Following the “first successful extraction of cobalt crusts from deep-sea mountains” in Japan in 2020, an analysis of seabed ecology showed that “there was a decrease in marine life such as fish and shrimp at the site a year later” and that “[t]he density had dropped even further in areas outside the impact zone, by more than half”. More specifically, within this timeframe, “researchers observed a 43% drop in fish and shrimp density in the “deposition” areas directly affected by sediment pollution, and a 56% drop in surrounding areas”. The study indicates that “[a]nimal populations appear to decrease where the deep sea is being mined, and the impact on marine life of the [deep-sea mining] industry may involve a wider “footprint” than previously expected”. Moreover, a recent report from the non-profit, Planet Tracker “found the cost of restoring the floor of the deep sea would be between $5.3 million to $5.7 million per square kilometer, which is about two times the cost of mining it, and more than the revenue that would be generated by selling the nodules, which Planet Tracker estimated to be $4.4 million per square kilometer”.
Read more about the outcomes of the ISA talks here: