Global philanthropic organisation, Minderoo Foundation, has today joined a world-wide coalition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining until there’s enough scientific evidence to ensure damage to the ocean environment is prevented.
Speaking at the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt, Minderoo Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest, said deep sea mining raises important questions about how we can accelerate toward a low-carbon future to avert the worst impacts of climate change — while minimising unwanted environmental harm along the way.
“Just because the deep ocean is out of sight, out of mind, standards shouldn’t drop.
“If regulators can’t apply exactly the same whole-of-ecosystem studies, including flora, fauna, terrain and unintended consequence — and the same or higher standards as we do on land — then the seabed shouldn’t be mined,” Dr Forrest said.
Seabed mining is currently not required to meet the same rigorous environmental standards as mining on land. Supporters of a moratorium are calling for more robust scientific investigation and the same rigorous pre-mining analysis standards as advanced mining on land.
“The deep seabed supports some of the least understood ecosystems on the planet. It is critically important to ecological processes affecting our entire ocean and yet our scientific knowledge of it remains extremely limited,” Dr Forrest said.
“Until we can match existing regulations placed on mining on land and also investigate the potential for alternatives, including improved efficiencies in production and recycling of existing minerals, we should not allow seabed mining to commence.
“This is why we are wholly supporting a moratorium on deep sea mining, until we understand if, in fact, we need to risk this last frontier at all,” Dr Forrest said.
The urgent call comes as the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which manages the seabed beyond exclusive economic zones and extended continental shelves, has a July 2023 deadline to review the regulations, or Mining Code, before mining applications can be submitted.
“Minderoo is committed to holding the ISA to account on its responsibilities to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which requires ISA members to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from any activities in the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction,” Dr Forrest said.
To date, the ISA has issued 30 exploration contracts for mining, covering more than 1.3 million square kilometres of the deep seabed, creating the largest potential set of mining operations ever. 1
1 International Seabed Authority. 2020. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Available at: https://www.isa.org.jm/frequently-asked-questions-faqs [Accessed 10 July 2020].
Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.