As states gear up for an intense month of meetings at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston, Jamaica, more countries are stepping forward to announce their support for a ban, moratorium or precautionary pause of deep-sea mining. The latest country to do so has been Switzerland, which announced during its Federal Council of 28 June that it “will support a moratorium on commercial exploitation of the [deep sea] Area until there is more scientific knowledge of its impact and protection of the marine environment can be guaranteed”. 

Switzerland joins another 15 countries (and hundreds of marine scientists) that have so far openly called to stop deep-sea mining from going ahead, with more expected to come forward during the ISA Council meeting that will take place from 10-21 July and the ISA Assembly that will follow the week after. European countries supporting a moratorium or precautionary pause include Germany and Spain, as well as France which has called for an outright ban. 

The July meetings are critical to prevent mining from proceeding under the “two-year rule” loophole triggered by Nauru in 2021. Nauru is the state sponsor for one of the subsidiaries of The Metals Company, a Canadian corporation that intends to have its application for a mining license provisionally approved to immediately start extracting nodules in the Pacific. The two-year rule, which expires 9 July, forces the ISA to fast-track and finalise regulations for deep-sea mining in two years or mining operations can be allowed to go ahead anyway. With the July deadline nearing, there is still a total lack of consensus among ISA Member States on allowing deep-sea mining and on what rules should be used to govern it. 

Switzerland’s announcement comes weeks after Europe’s top panel, the EASAC (European Academies’ Science Advisory Council) issued its “Deep-Sea Mining: Assessing evidence on future needs and environmental impacts” statement, in which the council stresses the huge environmental impacts of mining the seabed, concluding that deep-sea mining is not essential to meeting climate targets and that labelling it as a “vital green technology” is misleading. This couples a new scientific report raising concern about alarmingly high concentrations of radiation in the polymetallic nodules evidencing further uncertainties on the risks deep-sea mining poses.”