Taking on the International Seabed Authority in Jamaica
Activists from the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council and the University of the West Indies protest outside the International Seabed Authority (Source: @ourfootprintja)
The legalisation of the impending Deep Sea Mining industry is being negotiated on Jamaica's doorstep at the International Seabed Authority (ISA). As one of the only remaining unexplored frontiers of the natural world, the exploitation of the deep sea is a serious existential matter that affects all life on Earth.
698 marine science & policy experts from over 44 countries have signed a statement declaring that "deep-sea ecosystems are currently under stress from a number of anthropogenic stressors including climate change, bottom trawling and pollution” and that DSM "would add to these stressors, resulting in the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning that would be irreversible on multi-generational timescales”. According to the statement, DSM would not only exacerbate the biodiversity crisis but also the climate crisis as it warns of "uncertain impacts on carbon sequestration dynamics and deep-ocean carbon storage”.
But why Jamaica? There’s something very fishy about the ISA. "The ISA is an obscure United Nations-delegated body charged with creating and approving exploitation regulations for deep-sea mining by July this year” - SP Global. That’s in under 5 weeks!
ISA’s work has started to draw criticism as companies have sought to initiate commercial mining. More than a dozen companies and countries have received exploration contracts, including The Metals Company under the sponsorship of the island nation of Nauru. A recent New York Times investigation of internal ISA documents suggested the agency’s leadership has downplayed environmental concerns and shared confidential information with some of the companies that would be involved in seabed mining. - The Conversation.
The French National Assembly has adopted a resolution to outright ban the industry and "block the adoption of any regulations for the mining of the seabed by the ISA, as well as the granting of provisional exploitation licenses” and has called for a "reform of the ISA for greater transparency". Undercover footage of the latest deep sea mining tests in the Pacific Ocean by Canadian miner The Metals Company (TMC) and its Swiss operating partner and shareholder AllSeas, shows that wastewater sucked up from the seabed was dumped directly onto the sea’s surface...
The wastewater contained rock debris, and sediment. Over a 30 year license period, TMC and Allseas would destroy an area of seabed hosting unique and diverse ecosystems equivalent to the land area of Hawaii” says Greenpeace. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative has urged investors to avoid the industry, the United States also supports a delay and in 2022, Palau and Fiji led the world in declaring a Pacific island moratorium alliance on DSM.
The rush to mine the deep is being pitted against the need to transition away from fossil fuels, a short sighted and divisive straw man argument predicated on the assumption that wealthy or aspiring wealthy nations can continue to overconsume, provided they switch to battery power. The argument furthermore turns a blind eye to the mass waste of perfectly recyclable metals from disused electronic devices.
If it’s metals we want, we know there are alternatives to extracting them from the deep sea. How many phones do we throw away each year? In Costa Rica, GIZ and the company FORTECH CR is already establishing a permanent lithium battery collection system.
Deep Sea Matters is an event taking place in Jamaica next week being organised by the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council, Sustainable Oceans Alliance (SOA Caribbean) and natural resource management students from the University of the West Indies.
The goal is to get to the bottom of why it's all taking place behind closed doors in Jamaica and engage as many Caribbean youths as possible ahead of the next round of ISA negotiations this spring. These talks cannot go unchallenged in this country.
During the last round of ISA talks in November 2022, youth activists staged a demonstration outside the ISA headquarters in downtown Kingston. The action was attended by a grand total of four individuals, fewer than the twenty that came together in 2021. The same four were pestered by police for one hour. Yet this is an issue that is attracting online opposition from all around the world. If these talks were taking place in Paris or London, could you imagine the noise on the street? When you come to Kingston, you would think there is no global opposition to DSM. Between now and July, this has to change.
(Source: Greenpeace & @ourfootprintja)
The deep sea is the last bastion of the unexplored, unexploited natural world. We know nothing about it. This fact alone, coupled with the lack of transparency surrounding these negotiations and the haste at which they are trying to commence DSM render this one of the darkest issues of our time, which is why we need to kill it quick so we can get back to worrying about overfishing and everything else.
In addition to spreading awareness, the event aims to petition the Jamaican government to vote against DSM; create alliances with groups in other countries to pressure their governments to do the same; pressure the Jamaican government to release information on the nature of its agreement with Blue Minerals Jamaica and; demand the UN general assembly pressure transparency from ISA.