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02 November 2017

In October 2017, Seas At Risk together with its Portuguese members organised a conference on ‘Deep sea mining – A sustainable choice for Portugal?’, which was attended by over 100 participants, including Portuguese and Azorean government representatives, NGOs and scientists. The conference also marked the launch of Oceano Livre, a coalition of Portuguese NGOs against deep sea mining.

Oceano Livre brings together a number of groups: the Group of Spatial Planning and Environmental Studies (GEOTA); the League for Nature Protection (LPN); Quercus, the National Association for Nature Conservation; and Sciaena, the Marine Sciences and Cooperation Association. The conference took place in the spectacular setting of the Lisbon Oceanarium and was supported by Seas at Risk.

For some time, the Portuguese government has been considering an application by the Canadian company Nautilus for deep sea mining exploration and exploitation in Azorean waters, on the Portuguese extended continental shelf. Oceano Livre is the response of Portuguese NGOs, and is intended to raise public awareness of the potential implications of deep sea mining. The absence of any real debate on the issue to date points to a clear need for more critical assessment and discussion of sustainable alternatives to mining.

At the conference, several experts presented current research on the potential environmental impacts of deep sea mining, highlighting the risk of irreversible biodiversity loss and impacts from plumes, noise and light pollution. Gaps in governance and regulatory frameworks at both national and international level were outlined, and the future demand for minerals was discussed in the context of the ongoing transition to sustainable consumption and production systems. These insights framed a lively and engaged audience debate about the Portuguese/ Azorean case, indicating the depth of interest in the topic.

Oceano Livre’s position is clear: neither Portugal nor the world need deep sea mining, particularly in view of the scale and range of its environmental impacts. The movement believes that effective application of the circular economy, changes in consumer habits, and new alternative technologies will be sufficient to remove the need for deep sea mining.

This conference represented a first step towards opening a long-overdue public debate on deep sea mining. Seas At Risk has since called on the representatives of national and regional governments present at the conference to take the lead in continuing this necessary social debate. In Portugal, the Ministry assured conference attendees that decisions will be made carefully and with due regard to all possible impacts and benefits. Oceano Livre will continue to observe the process closely.

 

29 September 2017

Ahead of the annual meeting of the International Seabed Authority, Seas at Risk member the MARE Foundation called on the Polish government to cease its sponsorship of deep-sea exploration in areas beyond its national jurisdiction. Poland, however, ignored this appeal, instead continuing with its application for a new deep-sea mineral exploration contract in an area that the UN Convention on Biodiversity has declared to be of special importance for the health of oceans. This new contract was approved by the International Seabed Authority on 10th August.

In a letter to the Polish government, the MARE Foundation urged Poland to re-examine its support for the further development of deep-sea mining, calling for a shift towards sustainable alternatives to deep-sea mining and investment in the circular economy. The Polish government had previously undertaken a deep-sea mining exploration contract with the International Seabed Authority. The 2016 expiry of that contract prompted the Ministry of the Environment to apply for a new exploration licence in an area within the hydrothermal vent fields along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Atlantic Ocean.

Deep-sea mining poses a serious threat to global sustainability and the health of the marine ecosystem. Of considerable concern is the location of the new Polish exploration contract in what the UN Convention on Biodiversity has identified as an “Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area”, i.e. an area that gives essential support to the healthy functioning of oceans. Worryingly, the International Seabed Authority were unaware of the status of the area yet, despite having it subsequently drawn to their attention by NGOs, nonetheless proceeded to approve the contract, constituting an unprecedented breach of the precautionary principle.

In addition, the MARE Foundation began an online campaign to raise awareness among the Polish people of their government’s involvement in deep-sea mining. The campaign began with petitioning the Minister of the Environment to cease sponsorship and support for this activity, gathering 640 signatures in two weeks. Together with the Polish NGO, Institute of Global Responsibility, the MARE Foundation plans further public communication and awareness-raising activities to encourage the government to withdraw its support for deep-sea mining.

10 June 2017

Deep-sea mining has no place in a future shaped by the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. At the Ocean Conference of the United Nations 2017, Seas At Risk, supported by its 34 members and Mission Blue, BLOOM, the Deep Sea Mining Campaign and Earthworks, called on the international community to stop deep sea mining in its tracks.

 

 

17 March 2017

 

Deep sea mining has no place in a future shaped by the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. 

See the leaflet