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Precautionary pause in offshore mining at an international level

Big step in underwater mining. Friends of the Earth, Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife, WWF and Deep Sea Conservation Coalition celebrate and ask the Government for greater determination in the negotiations of the Oceans Treaty and the International Seabed Authority.

In the week that states met at UN headquarters in New York to advance the adoption of a Global Oceans Treaty, the Congress of Representatives passed a non-legal proposal demanding the establishment of a pause in underwater mining, agreeing to study its ban in Spanish waters. The proposal, registered by United We Can, went ahead with an amendment by the PSOE.

The environmental organizations that developed the proposal (Friends of the Earth, Ecologistas en Acción, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife and WWF, with the participation of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition) welcomed this step and demanded that, now having a clear parliamentary mandate, the government takes an active role in meetings of the Global Ocean Treaty and the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

The ISA will meet in March and July to continue discussing the adoption of a set of rules to regulate underwater mining. As of July, there is the possibility that mining operations in the great deep sea will begin to be authorized. It is essential that countries that are opposed to this activity, such as Spain, work actively and in a coordinated way to prevent the start of this industry, which would be catastrophic for the conservation of the oceans.

Underwater mining, a threat to the bottom of the sea

Undersea mining can become one of the main threats to the integrity of the seabed, an environment little known and studied. This is an activity with huge potential impacts, from the toxic effects of sediment and heavy metal plumes along the food chain, to the release of greenhouse gases sequestered on the ocean floor, to the irreversible destruction of marine biodiversity.

Likewise, the destruction or extinction of species caused by underwater mining could impede the discovery of new drugs associated with deep ocean life forms. Without going any further, the COVID19 test was developed using an enzyme isolated from a microbe found in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, a very scarce habitat now threatened by deep-sea mining.

With the approval of this agreement in the Congress of Deputies, Spain strengthens its position in the growing group of countries that demand a moratorium, precautionary pause or ban on underwater mining, which already includes France, Germany, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Micronesia, Palau, Fiji and Samoa, in addition to the European Commission, which has also ruled in favor of banning this activity.


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