Environmentalists are flabbergasted that Aotearoa’s crown research group NIWA has signed a contract to work with global deep sea miner The Metals Company, right at the time when a growing number of Pacific Island countries are calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining in international waters.
The company announced this week that NIWA and its Australian counterpart CSIRO would be working with the mining company to provide an environmental assessment report. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is due to meet next week to continue finalising the rules around seabed mining in international waters, but a growing chorus of countries are calling for a moratorium, including Palau, Fiji, Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia, French President Emmanual Macron, and the Portuguese and Chilean Governments.
“The New Zealand government has so far ignored the calls for a moratorium, but the news that NIWA is working for the seabed miners will come as a slap in the face for the growing number of Pacific Island nations supporting a moratorium - including the Pacific Island Forum hosts, Fiji,” said Phil McCabe of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.
“How can PM Jacinda Ardern look her host President Bainimarama in the eyes today at the Pacific Islands Forum and continue to run the line that we are taking a ‘considered approach’ to deep-sea mining, when our own leading research institute has just signed a contract with the miners?”
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining pointed out that New Zealand has had more experience dealing with the environmental issues around the potential destruction of this industry than literally any other country on the planet, but has not shared its experience on the global stage.
“After nearly ten years of considerable environmental scrutiny on this industry in Aotearoa, it has been found wanting: my question is why is our government not reflecting this experience in its international policy?” asked Cindy Baxter, KASM chairperson.
“Our EPA has rejected two applications, and the third has been rejected by the High Court, The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, yet our government continues to keep silent on this experience. We should be supporting our Pacific Island neighbours in fighting for the future of the oceans, not siding with the miners.” If the ISA agrees any rules at all on seabed mining, no matter how weak, then it will be allowed to go ahead. Mining the deep seabed, 4000m under the ocean’s surface, will be enormously damaging. The calls for a moratorium are based around concerns about how little is known about the potential impact, the scientific and cultural concerns.