“Deep-sea mining. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. It’s not worth the risk.” This was the message shared by Seas At Risk’s Executive Director Dr Monica Verbeek yesterday [6 March] as part of a wave of actions raising the alarm about the real and imminent risk to the ocean and climate posed by deep-sea mining. 

A street action in front of the European Parliament organised by the LookDown Collective brought together politicians with civil society and young activists from European countries that have not yet taken a position on deep-sea mining – Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal – to ask EU countries to support a moratorium on deep-sea mining. The street action was joined by ‘Emily In Paris’ star and ocean advocate Lucas Bravo. 

Deep-sea mining is the extraction of minerals from the deep sea, i.e. the area of the ocean below 200 metres in depth. Scientists warn that deep-sea mining would lead to large-scale and irreversible biodiversity loss, caused by ecosystem fragmentation and destruction, noise and light pollution, wastewater, and sediment plumes that would spread for large areas beyond mining sites. 

The street action was followed by a meeting of the European Parliament’s SEArica Intergroup, hosted by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Marie Toussaint and Caroline Roose. The Intergroup gathers MEPs who are passionate about ocean and coastal protection, and was the opportunity to launch Seas At Risk’s latest policy brief, ‘The unsustainability of deep-sea mining: Unearthing threats to the UN Sustainable Development Goals’. 

The publication highlights the negative relation between the prospects of advancing deep-sea mining with the achievement of key SDGs during the remainder of the decade, and beyond. From compromising SDG 13 on climate action by interfering with the planet’s carbon pump, to SDG 3 on good health and well-being by preventing the discovery of new medicines associated with life forms present only in the deep sea, deep-sea mining is at direct odds with European and international commitments to fight climate change, biodiversity loss and inequalities. 

Despite 13 states, European institutions, industry, banks, and hundreds of parliamentarians, scientists and civil society organisations from around the world taking strong positions against deep-sea mining, this destructive practice could be approved as soon as summer 2023 if advice is ignored by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Although the body is responsible for governing the seabed in the high seas, it has been largely highjacked by the deep-sea mining lobby and is riddled with accusations of a lack of transparency, revolving doors and unwarranted luxurious spending. 

In closing her intervention at the SEArica Intergroup, Monica Verbeek outlined a number of actions that European decision-makers must take as a matter of urgency, including continuing to build momentum for a moratorium or ban of deep-sea mining, banning the import and use of raw materials and goods that depend on them, and embracing a much-needed systemic shift towards “growth without economic growth” to tackle the EU’s huge demand for raw materials at the root. 

Read more about the unsustainability of deep-sea mining and Seas At Risk’s recommendations here.